Altering the Course of Freshwater Conservation

Image © Michel Roggo

By |2018-07-12T09:36:16+00:00July 10th, 2018|Biodiversity, Fish, Freshwater, Rivers|Comments Off on Altering the Course of Freshwater Conservation

As water carves its way towards oceans and collects in natural basins it creates a mosaic of unique habitats which nurture an abundance of life. Freshwater forms some of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.

These ecosystems are hotspots for biodiversity and ‘theatres of evolution’ supporting more than 126,000 species from crayfish to crocodiles, ducks to dragonflies, in an area covering less than 1% of Earth’s surface.

Despite harbouring such rich diversity, freshwater ecosystems and species are also some of the most threatened.

Based on a sample of 3,324 populations of 881 freshwater species, the abundance of life in freshwater habitats is estimated to have fallen by 81% between 1970 and 2012 (ZSL/WWF 2016), and in the last century almost three quarters of the world’s wetlands have been lost (Davison 2014).

Yacare caiman (Caiman yacare), Pantanal, Brazil. Michel Roggo

Hidden beneath the water’s surface, many freshwater species exist out of sight, yet despite mounting evidence of the crisis these species are facing, the issues surrounding their conservation have also remained out of mind.  Even within the conservation sector, freshwater species receive far less funding and action than their marine or terrestrial counterparts.

As these species disappear, so too do their myriad interactions with the natural environment, undermining the health of the freshwater ecosystems upon which we all rely. The human cost of declining freshwater ecosystem health can be equally dramatic. Indeed, many of the issues which are causing freshwater species and habitats to become degraded and disappear also pose great challenges for the communities who share these environments, and whose wellbeing and livelihoods are so intricately connected to them.

Synchronicity Earth focusses on some of the world’s least recognised and most urgent conservation issues. Our freshwater programme aims to rapidly escalate action to conserve freshwater species and ecosystems through:

1. Catalysing conservation action for freshwater species.

2. Empowering local communities to build capacity, advocate for and protect freshwater ecosystems.

3. Advancing knowledge systems and collaborative action for freshwater conservation.

The key philosophy of the Programme is not only to act as a funder, but to be an active agent in better connecting freshwater species conservation knowledge and action to those on the ground working to conserve rivers and lakes and defend the rights of local communities. The overarching aspiration is to build a stronger, more cohesive movement conserving Earth’s life supporting freshwater ecosystems, and to apply this framework in priority watersheds.

We are seeking individuals, foundations, and businesses to join us in addressing what is unquestionably one of the great conservation challenges of our time.


Davidson N.C, 2014. How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area, Marine and Freshwater Research, Vol.65 (10), pp.934-941

Dudgeon D, 2012. Threats to freshwater biodiversity globally and in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot in: Allen D.J, Smith K.G, Darwall W.R.T, The Status and Distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Indo-Burma, IUCN, Cambridge

WWF, 2016. Living Planet Report 2016, WWF International

For a copy of our detailed Freshwater Programme brochure, contact:

To learn more about why freshwater conservation is so vital, take a look at our Freshwater Insight.

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