A new database of the world's freshwater systems, called HydroSHEDS, has enormous potential to assist conservation planning. The maps, derived from high-resolution elevation data of the entire globe measured in one 2000 space shuttle flyover, detail the precise whereabouts of rivers and streams around the globe.
Of particular interest is the information now available on remote, poorly mapped areas such as the Madre de Dios river system in South America's Amazon basin. Current conservation efforts in this biodiversity-rich tropical ecosystem focus more on land areas and less on river systems. Now, the precision data will allow scientists to redraw protected area boundaries to include these essential freshwater habitats, especially ones that represent unique ecosystems and connect existing protected areas.