Freshwater biodiversity must be given a higher priority
Research and conservation of freshwater biodiversity is lagging behind. Researchers propose 15 priorities to improve knowledge on biodiversity in lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands
- Freshwater biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate
- 95 researchers from 38 countries propose a research agenda with 15 priorities for research topics and conservation measures for freshwater biodiversity
- The agenda reflects a representative diversity of opinion from the Global South and Global North
UNDER THE SURFACE: Freshwater biodiversity research and conservation lag far behind the efforts carried out in terrestrial and marine environments, say researchers from 88 scientific institutions worldwide.
In a new publication in Ecology Letters, they propose a research agenda with 15 priorities aimed at improving research on biodiversity in lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands. This is urgently needed, as freshwater biodiversity is being destroyed two times faster than on land or in the oceans.
"Despite the ongoing, unprecedented decline, international and intergovernmental science-policy platforms, funding agencies and major non-profit initiatives still fail to give freshwater biodiversity the priority it deserves."
Alain Maasri, lead author of the study, based at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB).
Freshwater biodiversity encompasses the genes, populations, species, communities, and ecosystems of all inland waters. It provides services that are vital to human well-being.
“Freshwater biodiversity is exceptionally rich, but also is disproportionately threatened. What’s particularly problematic is that freshwater biodiversity remains understudied. A joint global agenda helps to raise awareness and catalyze research efforts” comments centre researcher Jan Kuiper, co-author of the new article.
The agenda reflects the collective opinion of researchers from 38 countries, of which approximately half in the Global South.
"Lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands should be explicitly recognized as important habitats and ecosystems in their own right by policy makers and funding organisations, and in management and restoration programmes," adds co-author Sonja Jähnig from the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries.
Inland waters are often subsumed within terrestrial systems during environmental assessments and in funding programs, while they face unique pressures. All in all only a small fraction of the available funding for environmental work is allocated specifically to freshwater systems.
The authors of the agenda identified 15 priorities and grouped these into five major areas.
The 15 priorities include:
1. Establish a comprehensive overview of data
2. Effectively mobilize and digitize existing data
3. Develop accessible databases according to the principles of discoverability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability (FAIR data principles).
4. Coordinate existing monitoring programs and establish new ones
5. Identify and address biodiversity knowledge gaps
6. Develop innovative methods for biodiversity monitoring.
7. Understand mechanistic relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem services
8. Examining biodiversity responses to various stressors
9. Examine ecological and evolutionary responses of organisms, communities and ecosystems to global change.
10. Evaluation of restoration activities
11. Development of management strategies consistent with Nature Futures scenarios
12. Development of landscape perspectives for management and ecologically sound dam construction and operation concepts.
13. Incorporate social science into biodiversity research
14. Development of methods for assessing trade-offs among ecological, economic and social needs
15. Systematic development of citizen science and participatory research.
‘Call to arms’
The authors hope for more political support in the case of conflicting goals between ecological, economic and social interests through the involvement of local communities and experts. This also implies the inclusion of traditional and indigenous ecological knowledge.
"It‘s not about pointing fingers at policy makers or other stakeholders. It is up to all of us – including us researchers – to set priorities and work better together," conclude the authors.
Maasri A, Jähnig SC, Adamescu M, Adrian R, Baigun C, Baird D, Batista-Morales A, Bonada N, Brown L, Cai Q, Campos-Silva J, Clausnitzer V, Contreras-MacBeath T. et.al. 2021. A Global Agenda for Advancing Freshwater Biodiversity Research; Ecology Letters; DOI: 10.1111/ele.13931.
News & events
Research news | 2023-06-02
More freshwater experts needed in the IPBES biodiversity panel
Centre researcher Jan Kuiper lists why and how more freshwater experts could contribute to the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
General news | 2023-06-01
Centre researcher Juan Rocha elected into Young Academy of Sweden
Centre researcher Juan Rocha joins the Young Academy of Sweden, a junior version of the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, for a five-year term
Research news | 2023-05-31
Groundbreaking study quantifies safe and just Earth system boundaries
International commission proposes new safe and just boundaries for maintaining a healthy planet and protecting people from significant harm
Research news | 2023-05-25
AI could create a perfect storm of climate misinformation
The speed and the way misinformation about climate change and sustainability issues moves around the world is rapidly changing. Now, the Centre presents a new synthesis on AI and climate misinformation in connection to the Nobel Prize Summit 2023, "Truth, Trust and Hope"
Research news | 2023-05-22
Financial actors and academia join forces to build back biodiversity
Today is International Biodiversity Day! This year with the theme “From agreement to action: build back biodiversity”, and for us, that is a good reason to highlight the potential of the finance sector in reviving biodiversity
General news | 2023-05-17
Maria Tengö appointed special professor at Wageningen University
Maria Tengö is the most recently appointed professor at the Stockholm Resilience Centre