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Key Biodiversity Areas: new IUCN report finds that Mediterranean freshwater ecosystems are inadequately protected

November 21, 2014

Three-quarters of the Mediterranean region’s most valuable areas for freshwater biodiversity lie outside of protected areas, leaving some of the most area’s most important and diverse freshwater ecosystems vulnerable to human threats.  This is the key finding of a new IUCN assessment reported to the recent IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

The report suggests that at least 167 sites in the Mediterranean Basin –covering an area of 302,557 km2 – qualify as freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) .  Key Biodiversity Areas are an IUCN designation of the most important sites for biodiversity conservation worldwide, particularly important in maintaining species populations.  They are assessed globally using a standardised criteria based on how vulnerable and irreplaceable the populations of plants and animals they contain are.

The above video gives an introduction to freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas, and the new online BioFresh portal for accessing information on them.

Freshwater biodiversity is poorly accounted for in the global protected area network.  The new IUCN study provides crucial information on critical sites for freshwater biodiversity, and sets the foundation for a new protected area network in the Mediterranean Basin – a region rich in diverse and threatened freshwater life.

This work was undertaken in partnership with the BioFresh project.  Two BioFresh partners outlined the new study’s value:

Through this project we are putting freshwater biodiversity on the map in a region of the world where pressures on inland wetlands are rapidly driving species to the edge of extinction – a number have already been lost. The next crucial step is to build widespread awareness of these important sites and to stimulate targeted conservation on the ground” said Will Darwall Manager of the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit and project coordinator.

“KBAs are fragile freshwater ecosystems which must be properly managed as part of Integrated River Basin Management planning accounting for the wide range of uses of water across sectors” commented Jörg Freyhof, European chair of the IUCN/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group and co-author of the report.

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