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The status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Southern Africa

29 / 04 / 2009, Eldis Biodiversity

Biodiversity within inland water ecosystems in southern Africa is both highly diverse and of great regional importance to livelihoods and economies. However, development activities are not always compatible with the conservation of this diversity and it is poorly represented within the development planning process.This report cites that one of the main reasons for inadequate representation of biodiversity is a lack of readily available information on the status and distribution of inland water taxa. In response to this need for information, the IUCN Species Programme in collaboration with the South Africa Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) conducted a regional assessment of the status and distribution of 1,279 taxa of freshwater fishes, molluscs, odonates, crabs, and selected families of aquatic plants from across southern Africa. The key messages from the assessment are:

the inland waters of southern Africa support a high diversity of aquatic species with high levels of endemism. Many of these species provide direct (e.g. fisheries) and indirect (e.g. water purification) benefits to people
current levels of threat across the region are relatively low with 7% of species threatened. However, predicted future levels of threat, in particular due to development of water resources, are very high
data on the distributions, conservation status, and ecology of all 762 known species of fishes, molluscs, odonates, crabs, and 517 selected species of aquatic plants are now freely available to inform conservation and development planners
the current network of protected areas is not designed for protection of freshwater species with many falling outside of any protected area. Future protected areas must be designed for the effective conservation of freshwater species
data made available through this assessment must be integrated within the decision-making processes when planning for the conservation and development of inland water resources. Lack of available information should no longer be given as a reason for inadequate consideration for development impacts on freshwater species
species information remains very limited for many parts of the region with Angola and Mozambique, in particular, identified as priorities for future field survey.

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