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Top ten moments for freshwater biodiversity in 2013

January 7, 2014

With the new year upon us, we take a look back at the year that’s been to discuss our top ten moments for freshwater biodiversity in 2013. What are yours?

10. World Water Day 2013
Held on March 22nd, World Water Day is an opportunity to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Water is not only a vital resource for humans, however, but a medium for life itself. This year’s theme was ‘water co-operation‘, fitting with 2013 as the ‘International Year of Water Co-operation’.

9. Leading scientist calls for freshwater advocacy group
The Head of the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity team, Will Darwall, spoke to BioFresh about the big challenges for freshwater biodiversity conservation and called for the formation of a freshwater advocacy group. In the interview, which you can watch here,  Darwall urges closer cooperation between freshwater scientists and conservationists to provide a stronger voice for freshwater biodiversity.

8. New campaign to shed light into the hidden world of microbial life
Freshwater life comes both big and small. They also come in the microscopic size! River Sampling Day, a new campaign that kicked off in 2013, aims the highlight the amazing diversity of microbial life hidden in our rivers and lakes. Although these tiny specks of freshwater life are at the heart of many essential ecosystem services, they are greatly under-researched; a situation that River Sampling Day intends to improve.

7. World biodiversity day helps raise awareness about freshwater biodiversity
This year’s theme of the International Day for Biological Diversity was ‘water and biodiversity’. It provided the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about the crucial role that water plays in sustaining life on Earth, as well the highlighting the abundance of life found within freshwaters.

6. UN RIvers Convention close to reality
Efforts create an UN rivers convention have taken a leap forward this year. Originally drafted in 1997, thirty-two countries have now ratified the convention that aims to protect rivers shared by a number of countries, just three short of the number needed for it to take effect. More than 150 major rivers are shared by two or more countries, often leading to international tensions over their use. The international environment framework is officially known as the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

5. The IPBES, the new international authority on biodiversity, kicks off their agenda
Dubbed the IPCC of the biodiversity world, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES has had a big year. Founded last year, the new global nature authority held its first meetings this year, laying the foundations for its future work and setting its top priorities.  The IPBES plans carry out two assessments focusing on pollination and food production, and the impact land degradation on biodiversity and human well-being.

4. WWF launches a global campaign to protect Congo’s Lake Edward from oil exploration
Not all of the items in this list are positive.  The threat of oil exploration project in Africa’s oldest national park is one such example. London-based company Soco International plans to look for oil in the Virguna National Park, Africa’s most biologically diverse protected area and a World Heritage Area. Encompassing Lake Edward, a key freshwater biodiversity area upon which thousands of people also rely, Virguna is home to over 200 species found nowhere else on earth, including many freshwater fish. Read about WWF’s global campaign to protect the region from oil exploration.

3. The world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area is kept alive
Known as the super collider of ecology, the Experimental Lakes Areas (ELA) in Canada was facing a bleak future at the turn of last year. The Harper Government had announced that it would close the freshwater science research facility to save money. But after a strong campaign the provincial government of Ontario stepped in and saved the ELA, which will now be managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The ELA is the only facility in the world that allows the study of whole lake ecosystem research and has produced almost 750 peer-reviewed papers including 19 in Science and Nature.

2. Hundreds of new freshwater species found
With the ‘discovery’ of hundreds of species of freshwater critters previously unknown to science, from fish to frogs to water beetles, 2013 proved that there is still so much to find out about the world. The new species were found in places ranging from the Amazon to Australia and include a giant air-breathing fish, an eyeless cave fish, a vegetarian piranha, and fish that has been named after Barack Obama.

1. New protected areas announced for vital freshwater ecosystems
A suite of new freshwater protected areas were created this year. Bolivia has continued its reputation as a conservation leader by creating the world’s biggest protected wetlands, covering a whopping 6.9 million ha of the Amazon and protecting nearly 2,500 species! Cambodia also stepped up to the plate this year by protecting over 50km of the Mekong, safeguarding local people’s livelihoods and iconic species such as the Irrawaddy river dolphin. This comes has Columbia and Peru celebrate 10 years of successful freshwater conservation in the Amazon.

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