An international research group has issued 14 recommendations on freshwater biodiversity for inclusion in international agreements to be updated in the future. The team suggested that rivers, lakes and wetlands be considered a “third environmental medium”, different from the two known mediums of land and sea.
The researchers published a scientific paper that included these recommendations in the scientific journal “Conservation Letters” on 12 October.
With the end of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020, the UN report published in September shows that none of the 20 biodiversity protection targets that were agreed upon in 2010 have been met.
Therefore, the preservation of biological diversity remains a major global challenge, especially in freshwater ecosystems, which have not been sufficiently taken into account so far in international agreements and laws to protect biological diversity.
Although fresh water represents an essential resource for human beings and one of the natural elements necessary for life, the role of rivers, lakes and wetlands is overlooked as environmental media that harbor different types of organisms.
These species are subjected to many man-made pressures such as climate change, overexploitation, loss of habitats, pollution and the threat of invasive species, which has led to massive loss of species and a decline in their numbers.
Researchers say that protection of freshwater has often been addressed in a way that does not reflect its importance to nature. For example, in agreements to protect biological diversity inland waters are included in land regulations because it is a non-marine environment. This neglect resulted in the loss of about 84% of the organisms that lived in this medium between 1970 and 2016.
The 14 published recommendations for the global protection of freshwater biodiversity, prepared by a team of researchers from Europe and the United States, are based on research knowledge and practical experience, according to the statement published on the website of the German Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Environment and Inland Fisheries (Leibniz Forschungsverbund Berlin e V) that supervised Preparing these recommendations.
The researchers placed on top of their recommendations the necessity of considering fresh water as a “third environmental medium” different from land and sea, with what this requires of special management in future biodiversity conventions. For example, they suggested including specific targets for freshwater ecosystems in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Convention on Biological Diversity, which was adopted in 1993, combined inland waters and terrestrial areas, while the Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity 2011-2020 contained 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The most important freshwater goals in this convention include reducing habitat loss in half, reducing pollution, preventing and controlling invasive alien species, increasing and developing protected areas, and preventing extinction.
In addition, the researchers pointed out the importance of freshwater ecosystems to humans as they are not “isolated islands” from the rest of the natural landscape, but rather reflect the environmental impacts from their surroundings, so watersheds should be the starting point for every process aimed at protecting biodiversity. While improving the methods of monitoring and managing these areas.
The researchers also stressed the importance of increasing awareness of the biodiversity crisis by focusing on major types of freshwater organisms such as river dolphins, hippos and sturgeon, while improving monitoring of the organisms that live in this environment and developing data management around them to be available for viewing and mutual use between countries.
The researchers stressed the need to strengthen strategic planning in river basin management to achieve a balance between the water needs of the population and wildlife.
These researchers hope to incorporate these recommendations into two important international updating projects on biodiversity, the CBD and the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy.