Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Endangered giants: large freshwater species most threatened with extinction on the planet

13.03.2017

Freshwater megafauna such as river dolphins, crocodilians and sturgeons play vital roles in their respective ecosystems. In a recent scientific publication, researchers of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin have teamed up with international colleagues to illustrate the factors that currently threaten these large vertebrates. The authors also call for a more comprehensive assessment on these large freshwater animals and for a more targeted conservation plan. Also, a wider range of freshwater species and freshwater ecosystems suffering from biodiversity decrease have the potential to benefit from such megafauna-based actions.

Many large aquatic vertebrates, referred to as freshwater megafauna, cover long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds. To ensure their safe passage, they are dependent on free-flowing waters. However, this makes them vulnerable to the increasing fragmentation of river catchments caused by damming.


The Yangtze Finless Porpoise is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo: Huigong Yu


These animals are threatened by incidental catch, vessel collision, pollution, and habitat degradation.

Photo: Huigong Yu

The Russian sturgeon, for example, has lost 70 per cent of its spawning grounds in the Caspian Sea basin and its entire Black Sea basin spawning grounds over the last 60 years due to dam construction. The boom in dam construction also affects many other species, such as the Amazonian manatee, the Ganges river dolphin and the Mekong giant catfish – these species are now classified as threatened. “The fragmentation of habitats is one of the central threats to freshwater megafauna, as well as overexploitation” explained Fengzhi He.

The IGB researcher is the lead author of the study on the disappearance of large vertebrates from rivers and lakes, published recently in WIREs Water. According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, more than half of the world’s large-bodied vertebrates weighing more than 30 kg that live in freshwater ecosystems are threatened.

Yet, freshwater megafauna species play key roles in their respective ecosystems: owing to their size, most are at the top of the food chain, meaning that a large proportion of creatures in the local ecosystem would be affected by their extinction.

The mode of life of the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver, for example, induces them to shape entire river courses, affecting not only biochemical and hydrological processes, but also in-stream and riparian assemblages; in the Everglades, the American alligator creates and maintains small ponds, providing habitats for a large number of plants and smaller animals.

“The importance of freshwater megafauna for biodiversity and humans cannot be overstated,” stressed Fengzhi He. Together with colleagues from IUCN, the University of Tübingen and Queen Mary University of London, Fengzhi He describes in this publication which factors pose threats to freshwater megafauna. Besides the obstruction and fragmentation of water bodies following dam construction, these factors include overexploitation, environmental pollution, habitat destruction, species invasion and the changes associated with climate change.

According to the authors, megafauna species are highly susceptible to external factors owing to their long lifespan, large body size, late maturity and low fecundity. Despite the fact that many megafauna species are under great threat, they have been largely neglected in previous research and conservation actions.

Fengzhi He and his co-authors call for research focusing on the distribution patterns, life history and population dynamics of freshwater megafauna. Freshwaters are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, where biodiversity is declining faster than in marine and terrestrial realms. For this reason, it is all the more important to develop sustainable nature conservation strategies for freshwater ecosystems and their megafauna.

Link to study

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wat2.1208/full

He, F., Zarfl, C., Bremerich, V., Henshaw, A., Darwall, W., Tockner, K. and Jähnig, S. C. (2017), Disappearing giants: a review of threats to freshwater megafauna. WIREs Water, e1208. doi:10.1002/wat2.1208

Contacts

Fengzhi He
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)
Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin
fengzhi.he@igb-berlin.de

Dr. Sonja Jähnig
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)
Justus-von-Liebig-Str. 7, 12489 Berlin
sonja.jaehnig@igb-berlin.de
+49 (0)30 6392 4085

About IGB:

http://www.igb-berlin.de

Work at IGB combines basic research with preventive research as a basis for the sustainable management of freshwaters. In the process, IGB explores the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems under near-natural conditions and under the effect of multiple stressors. Its key research activities include the long-term development of lakes, rivers and wetlands under rapidly changing global, regional and local environmental conditions, the development of coupled ecological and socio-economic models, the renaturation of ecosystems, and the biodiversity of aquatic habitats. Work is conducted in close cooperation with universities and research institutions from the Berlin/Brandenburg region as well as worldwide. IGB is a member of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V., an association of eight research institutes of natural sciences, life sciences and environmental sciences in Berlin. The institutes are members of the Leibniz Association.

Angelina Tittmann | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: IGB aquatic ecology fragmentation freshwater freshwater species

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers devise microreactor to study formation of methane hydrate

23.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

ShAPEing the future of magnesium car parts

23.08.2017 | Automotive Engineering

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>