Freshwater species worse off than land or marine

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
October 15, 2009



Scientists have announced that freshwater species are likely the most threatened on earth. Extinction rates for freshwater inhabitants are currently four to six times the rates for terrestrial and marine species. Yet, these figures have not led to action on the ground.

"Few are aware of the catastrophic decline in freshwater biodiversity at both local and global scale. Threats to freshwater biodiversity have now grown to a global scale," says Klement Tockner of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin.

Freshwater species provide key services for humans; their loss affects the availability of clean water, disease regulation, and subsistence agriculture and fishing. These species are also important carbon sequesters: freshwater ecosystems and species absorb and bury about 7 percent of the annual carbon added to the atmosphere every year, according to Tockner.

"Despite their pivotal ecological and economic importance, freshwater ecosystems have not been of primary concern in policy making," Tockner says. "Only recently did the European Union take the initiative to improve this situation through the EC Biodiversity Strategy. And in the U.S., recent Supreme Court decisions have made wetlands and small streams more vulnerable to loss."

Threats are only expected to worsen for freshwater species as human consumption of freshwater continues to expand—exceeding limits in many parts of the world—and climate change causes more and longer droughts.

"The pace of extinctions is quickening," warns Tockner, "especially in hot spot areas around the Mediterranean, in Central America, China and throughout Southeast Asia."







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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 15, 2009).

Freshwater species worse off than land or marine.

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1015-hance_freshwater.html