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Protecting and restoring habitats to benefit freshwater biodiversity

Morgan L. Piczak, Denielle Perry, Steven J. Cooke, Ian Harrison, Silvia Benitez, Aaron Koning, Li Peng, Peter Limbu, Karen E. Smokorowski, Sergio Salinas-Rodriguez, John D. Koehn, Irena F. Creed

Environmental Reviews

June 21, 2023

Freshwater biodiversity is under great threat across the globe as evidenced by more severe declines relative to other types of ecosystems. Some of the main stressors responsible for these concerning trends is habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss stemming from anthropogenic activities, including energy production, urbanization, agriculture, and resource extraction. Habitat protection and restoration both play an integral role in efforts to save freshwater biodiversity and associated ecosystem services from further decline. In this paper, we summarize the sources of threats associated with habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss and then outline response options to protect and restore freshwater habitats. Specific response options are to legislate the protection of healthy and productive freshwater ecosystems, prioritize habitats for protection and restoration, enact durable protections, conserve habitat in a coordinated and integrated manner, engage in evidence-based restoration using an adaptive management approach, ensure that potential freshwater habitat alterations are mitigated or off-set, and future-proof protection and restoration actions. Such work should be done through a lens that engages and involves local community members. We identify three broad categories of obstacles that could arise during the implementation of the response options outlined: (a) scientific (e.g., inaccessible data or uncertainties), (b) institutional and management (e.g., capacity issues or differing goals across agencies), and (c) social and political (e.g., prioritizing economic development over conservation initiatives). The protection and restoration of habitats is key to Bend the Curve for freshwater biodiversity, with a comprehensive, connected, and coordinated effort of response options needed to protect intact habitats and restore fragmented, degraded, and lost habitats and the biodiversity and ecosystem services that they support.

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Piczak, M. L., Perry, D., Cooke, S. J., Harrison, I., Benitez, S., Koning, A., Peng, L., Limbu, P., Smokorowski, K. E., Salinas-Rodriguez, S., Koehn, J. D., & Creed, I. F. (2023). Protecting and restoring habitats to benefit freshwater biodiversity. Environmental Reviews.