Berlin, Aug 12 (Canadian-Media): Rivers and lakes cover just about one percent of Earth's surface, but are home to one third of all vertebrate species worldwide, phys.org news said.
The European sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) has suffered the largest loss – its distribution range diminished by 99 percent. Credit: Solvin Zankl
At the same time, freshwater life is highly threatened. Scientists from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and international colleagues have now quantified the global decline of big freshwater animals: From 1970 to 2012, global populations of freshwater megafauna declined by 88 percent—twice the loss of vertebrate populations on land or in the ocean.
Large fish species are particularly affected. And yet there remain large gaps in monitoring and conservation actions for freshwater megafauna, particularly in areas with high levels of biodiversity.
Freshwater megafauna include all freshwater animals that weigh 30 kilograms or more, such as species of river dolphins, beavers, crocodiles, giant turtles and sturgeons. The scientists compiled available time series data for 126 freshwater megafauna species worldwide, as well as the historical and contemporary geographic distribution data of 44 species in Europe and the USA.
"The results are alarming and confirm the fears of scientists involved in studying and protecting freshwater biodiversity," says Sonja Jähnig, senior author of the study and expert for global change effects on river ecosystems at IGB. From 1970 to 2012, global populations of freshwater megafauna declined by 88 percent, most notably in the Indomalaya (by 99 percent) and Palearctic (by 97 percent) realms—the former covering South and Southeast Asia and southern China, and the latter covering Europe, North Africa and most of Asia. Large fish species such as sturgeons, salmonids and giant catfishes are particularly threatened: with a 94 percent decline, followed by reptiles with 72 percent.
Two main threats: overexploitation and loss of free-flowing rivers
Overexploitation is the primary threat to freshwater megafauna as they are often targeted for meat, skin and eggs. "Furthermore, the decline of large fish species is also attributed to the loss of free-flowing rivers as access to spawning and feeding grounds are often blocked by dams. Although the world's large rivers have already been highly fragmented, another 3700 large dams are planned or under construction—this will exacerbate the river fragmentation even further. More than 800 of these planned dams are located in diversity hotspots of freshwater megafauna, including Amazon, Congo, Mekong and Ganges river basins," says Fengzhi He, first author of the study and expert for diversity patterns and conservation of freshwater megafauna at IGB.
Successful conservation: sturgeons, beavers and the Irrawaddy river dolphin
Thanks to targeted conservation actions, populations of 13 megafauna species including the green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) and the American beaver (Castor canadensis) have been stable or even increasing in the USA. In Asia, the population of the Irrawaddy river dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Mekong basin has increased for the first time in twenty years. In Europe, efficient and large-scale conservation strategies seem to be more difficult to implement, arguably due to politic boarders and differences in environmental awareness among countries. Nevertheless, the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber), for example, has now been reintroduced to many regions where it was extirpated. In Germany, IGB is working with international partners to reintroduce the two formerly native sturgeon species European sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) and Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) to European waters.
Room for improvement: monitoring and conservation of freshwater biodiversity
Despite the fact that freshwater megafauna are highly threatened, current conservation actions are inadequate for many species. "According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, over half of all assessed freshwater megafauna species are considered as threatened with extinction. Nonetheless, they receive less research and conservation attention than megafauna in terrestrial or marine ecosystems," reminds Jähnig. The now quantified global decline of freshwater megafauna highlights the urgent need for conservation actions for freshwater biodiversity. It is important to improve the monitoring of population trends and distributions of freshwater species in regions such as Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. After all, changes in abundance and distribution are better indicators of the condition of ecosystems and their living organisms than the extinction of species.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Aug 12 (Canadian-Media): Following Labrador’s important contribution to the ocean-based economy, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is increasing its presence in Labrador to better serve its residents, media reports said.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Facebook
The existing DFO office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been reprofiled into an Area office and establishing a new Area Director position and other new positions, to increase its service capacity to the Big Land and its people.
With the creation of this new Area, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has three administrative Areas in Newfoundland and Labrador: Eastern and Central Newfoundland; Southern and Western Newfoundland; and Labrador.
Commercial fishing is a key economic contributor in Labrador.
“Labrador is an important economic centre within the province. With emerging oil and gas exploration and new and evolving fishing activities...we are at a critical juncture to invest and position Labrador for a prosperous future. Our investment today demonstrates that we are listening to Labradorians and our government understands that the timing for enhanced service delivery in Labrador is now, ” member of Parliament for Labrador, Yvonne Jones.
There are 12 small craft harbours operated by 10 harbour authorities to provide important infrastructure for commercial fisheries and coastal Labrador communities.
DFO is also committed to advancing reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples of Labrador, one of the largest Indigenous populations in Atlantic Canada, on innovative approaches to program and service delivery.
The Government of Canada is also investing in Labrador through the new Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has invested, since 2017, more than $24 million in Labrador through Indigenous partnerships and infrastructure programs. Over $4.5 million is in direct partnership investments with Indigenous organizations while $20 million is being invested in Small Craft Harbours’ improvements in Indigenous communities.
“Our investments in Labrador reflect our government’s commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples...in supporting real economic growth opportunities and are reflective of how fisheries are an important driver of economic development in Labrador,” Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard said.
The Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative launched on May 24, 2019, provides funding and support to Indigenous groups for the development of Indigenous-owned communal commercial fishing enterprises and aquaculture operations.