Freshwater

Okavango Delta Sunset ©Jens KippingThe Freshwater Biodiversity Unit of the IUCN's Species Programme aims to put in place a factual basis for efforts to conserve and manage freshwater biodiversity.

An estimated 126,000 described species rely on freshwater habitats, including species of fishes, molluscs, reptiles, insects, plants, and mammals. With the inclusion of undescribed species, this number could rise to over one million. Species richness in relation to area of habitat is extremely high in many freshwater groups. Freshwater fishes comprise almost 45% of all fishes and freshwater molluscs about 25% of all molluscs. An estimated 15,000 fish (including brackishwater species), 4,300 amphibians, 5,600 Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), and 5,000 mollusc species depend on freshwater habitats. Other major groups dependent upon freshwater include reptiles, insects, plants, and mammals.

The importance of freshwater species, ecosystems and services to human livelihoods and wellbeing is increasingly being recognised, and the FBU works in a number of areas to provide the information to support decisions for the protection of wetland species and livelihoods.

To conserve and manage freshwater biodiversity, the FBU works in conjunction with the SSC’s Specialist Groups (including the IUCN/SSC/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, the Dragonfly Specialist Group and the Mollusc Specialist Group), the Species Information Service, the Global Amphibian Assessment Programme, regional scientists, experts in freshwater biodiversity and policy makers. We have a key partnership with Conservation International's Science & Knowledge division, with which we are working to undertake regional and global freshwater assessments.

For further information on any of our projects, please visit our website.