Altering the course of freshwater conservation
Freshwater habitats host some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, but they are also among the most threatened. The people and wildlife that are most impacted by their rapid loss and degradation are not receiving the attention or support they need to avoid further declines: our goal is to change that.
This programme is based on ten years of institutional knowledge gained from funding, engaging with and researching freshwater conservation, as well as working with our network of scientific and grassroots advisors. Our approach is to identify conservation funding and action, to complement existing work, and to support initiatives where long-term partnership can achieve lasting and transformative change. To achieve this, our programme consists of three overlapping and complementary funding streams of work:
Empowering local communities to build capacity, advocate for and protect freshwater ecosystems.
Advancing knowledge systems and collaborative action for freshwater conservation.
* Images (L to R): Michel Roggo; Mabuwaya Foundation; Chris Scarffe
The abundance of life in freshwater habitats is estimated to have fallen by 83% between 1970 and 2014 (WWF, 2018) – far outstripping the pace of decline in marine or terrestrial habitats.
A call to action
To bring new energy and capacity to freshwater fish conservation, Synchronicity Earth is hosting and resourcing an exciting new initiative called Shoal.
Besides conservationists, there are significant numbers of people around the world who have a vested interest in freshwater fish conservation: anglers, aquarium enthusiasts, zoos. So it may come as a surprise that freshwater fish – freshwater species in general, in fact – and their habitats are some of the most overlooked of all when it comes to conservation.
The idea behind Shoal is to begin to fill this gap by creating a new partnership to effectively and efficiently direct funding and other resources at the most critical interventions required to prevent freshwater species extinctions.
Currently this kind of partnership does not exist for almost any other group of species, let alone freshwater fish. This will be an inclusive, partner-driven alliance, ensuring the fundamental mission of Shoal is met – to conserve freshwater fish through action-driven conservation.
We start with freshwater fish – a group in desperate need of attention and action and one which elicits interest from us all. We will place freshwater fish at the forefront of Shoal – providing a strong and simple message that these species need our help. In conserving fish, we will in turn be conserving other freshwater species and their habitats.
“If people took the time to really look closely at what species we have in freshwater ecosystems, they would see that there are some amazing creatures in there. But freshwater species get very little attention, they aren’t in the public eye like other terrestrial and marine species.”
Dr William Darwall, Head of the Freshwater Biodiversity Unit, IUCN Global Species Programme
Spotlight on Species: Freshwater fish
Amongst the most threatened groups of freshwater species are freshwater fish. Approximately one in three freshwater fish (32 per cent) have been assessed to be threatened with extinction, competing with amphibians for the unwanted title of the most at risk vertebrate group on the IUCN Red List, which acts as a barometer for the health of life on Earth.
Currently 29 per cent of critically endangered species inhabit freshwater systems, and as new assessments continue to shed light on the gravity of the situation facing freshwater species it is becoming more and more evident that something has to change.