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Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: status, trends, pressures and conservation priorities

KEY FACTS
Project
BIOFRESH – Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: status, trends, pressures and conservation priorities
Project leader
Nicolas Bailly
 
Start
1 Nov 2009
End
30 Apr 2014
Freshwater in the form of rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands offers us a remarkably diverse array of natural functions and ecosystem services. However, there is clear and growing scientific evidence that we are on the verge of a major freshwater biodiversity crisis: in the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, populations of more than 300 freshwater species have declined by ~55 percent while those of terrestrial and marine systems each declined by ~32 percent.
 
Despite the falling numbers, there is a lack of awareness and action at both local and global scales. A key factor hindering action is the limited access to timely and reliable information about the world’s freshwater habitats and their associated species. The BioFresh project aims to address this problem by building a web-based science portal providing free and universal access to information on freshwater biodiversity.
 

 

Improving our capacity to protect and manage freshwater biodiversity

BioFresh will bring together the vast amount of information about freshwater biodiversity which is currently scattered among a wide range of databases and make it publicly available. This will enable the identification of key ‘hot spots’ of freshwater biodiversity and their vulnerabilities and suggest improved conservation strategies.
The information portal will allow scientists and planners to complement, integrate, and analyze quantitative data to discover, evaluate and examine patterns that will shed new light on how freshwater biodiversity is responding to global, European and local environmental pressures. In turn, the development and testing of spatially explicit models will help us understand how freshwater biodiversity might respond to key climate and socioeconomic pressures in the future.
 
Beyond being a state-of-the-art information portal, the products and findings of the project will be used on the one hand to make people more aware of the importance and beauty of freshwater biodiversity, and on the other it will help policy makers to make decisions based on the best available evidence.
 
BioFresh ultimately aims to provide a coherent, scientific foundation by which freshwater biodiversity can be incorporated more explicitly into water policy and international environmental agreements (i.e. Ramsar Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity) in general, and also to EU directives such as Natura 2000. The project’s findings and outputs will be disseminated widely, to strengthen public awareness on the status and the importance of freshwater biodiversity for both environmental and human well-being.
 

Worldwide partnership and broad capability

The BioFresh consortium involves 18 participants selected for their complementary expertise in freshwater biodiversity research, outreach activities and the management of large data bases. The project brings together the necessary combination of disciplines, activities, expertise and resources to achieve its objectives in a successful, timely and cost-effective manner.
 
The participants include leading European and international experts on all relevant freshwater ecosystems and organisms including fish and other vertebrates, insects and other invertebrate groups, as well as aquatic fungi, plants and microorganisms. Individual participants have a variety of long-term experience in bioinformatics related to biodiversity data and other technical aspects of the project, in particular ecosystem valuation, digitizing biodiversity information and statistical and modeling techniques.