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Azzam Alwash, Project Manager, Eden Again/New Eden, Iraq
Satellite imagery and on-the-ground surveys show that extensive diversion structures, built by the Iraqi Army, have desiccated 90% of the marsh area at the onset of hostilities in March 2003. Since then, the people of the marshes have breached dykes and floodgates, and up to 40% of the marshes have been inundated with water. Some areas have managed to recover, while others are slow in healing. In order to help the Iraqi government manage the limited amount of water available in the restoration process, the Eden Again team, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is developing hydrodynamic circulation models for the marshes in order to have tools for the evaluation of restoration alternatives. Such models would examine the problem on two different scales. At the macro-scale level, it would be possible to examine the effects of varying inflows on the marsh ecosystem. The macro-scale analyses, however, would cover areas between tens and hundreds of square kilometers. On the other hand, at the micro-scale level, numerical analyses of circulation patterns would provide a means to evaluate alternative restoration plans. Simulation results have provided a preliminary look at overall circulation patterns arising from inflows/outflows to the system. Our analysis benefited from access to reasonably detailed topographic maps and exceptional satellite imaging products. This enabled us to include in our model most of the hydraulic structures that are responsible for causing the desiccation of the marshes. The model also provided the means to assess the effects of hypothetical water releases into the marshlands. The results of the macro-scale circulation model were used to develop micro-scale models for the Abu Zirig Marsh, a pilot project, at a more detailed level. The objective is to examine the interaction of marsh conditions (e.g., bathymetric features, vegetation, etc.) and hydrodynamic forcing (freshwater inflows, meteorology, salinity and temperature gradients, the presence of hydraulic structures, etc.).With the aid of newly acquired, highly accurate topographic data, the micro-scale analyses are providing insights on circulation patterns and velocity distributions and are applied to evaluate alternative restoration scenarios and to plan/design constructed wetlands to meet water treatment needs for villages in the region.


David J. Berg, Department of Zoology, Miami University, Ohio, USA
The Chihuahuan Desert of North America is home to many endemic species. This region’s unique biological communities have led to its inclusion among the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 ecoregions. Amphipods (Arthropoda: Crustacea) in the Gammarus pecos species complex are endemic to spring systems in western Texas and eastern New Mexico. We examined patterns of genetic variation in this group; our results were used to consider taxonomic status of this species complex and biogeography of this region. Seven spring systems containing eleven populations were surveyed. Individual populations contained high levels of genetic variation; however the distribution of this variation suggested that two of the populations might each contain cryptic species. Preliminary behavioral and morphological observations support such an interpretation. Populations were highly differentiated, implying long periods of isolation with little gene flow. Genetic results were consistent with previously published morphological characteristics. At least four distinct species belong to this complex, including at least one undescribed species. Patterns of variation among populations of amphipods were similar to those found in other groups of desert spring animals. There appears to be a coherence to biogeographic patterns within the northern Chihuahuan Desert, likely arising from regional processes that shaped endemicity patterns in a variety of faunal groups. Knowledge of genetic structure and taxonomic status within the G. pecos complex provides insight into the biogeography of other aquatic organisms in these spring systems. These common patterns of variation suggest that conservation strategies that account for such patterns may simultaneously benefit multiple groups of organisms.


Sharon Brooks, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK
The Tonle Sap freshwater ecosystem is home to eight species of water snakes that are being heavily hunted to provide a source of income for some of the poorest people in Cambodia. Snake hunting has a long history in Cambodia, but in recent years a trade of phenomenal scale has developed in response to a growing demand for a cheap source of protein by the booming crocodile farm industry. We have set up a participatory monitoring program showing that over a seven month season, 3.5 million snakes are landed at the three major trading ports, raising strong concerns over the future for these snake populations.

Our research aims to assess the sustainability of this trade using a livelihoods approach to address the driving force behind the exploitation rather than simply the consequences of it. Understanding how snake hunting fits into peoples’ highly seasonal patterns of economic activity and their diverse livelihood strategies is an important component of developing appropriate conservation advice to ensure persistence of the snake populations.

Through interviews, discussion groups, and monitoring, we have found that the rate of exploitation varies seasonally according to both the availability of snakes and of alternative resources that drive fluctuations in prices and incentives for targeted hunting. Snake hunting is a low margin economic activity, only pursued when fish catches fall below a certain threshold. Using a livelihoods approach to sustainability analysis thus enables us to identify the decisions of resource users and integrate these into conservation planning.

Karen Bushaw-Newton, Assistant Professor, Microbial Ecology & Biogeochemistry, American University, USA
The removal of a small dam from a stream ecosystem affects not only the physical but also the biological and chemical aspects of the ecosystem. Understanding how all components interact with each other as well as react to the removal of the dam is key for developing dam removal as an effective tool for stream restoration. In 1999, the Patrick Center for Research and the University of Delaware began an integrative study to determine the ecological responses to the removal of a 2m high dam on lower Manatawny Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Manatawny Creek study employed an integrative monitoring program to assess the physical, chemical, and biological responses to dam removal. Monitoring was carried out prior and post (2+ years), the two-stage removal in August and November 2000. Comparisons of the results of the Manatawny Creek Removal with other monitored dam removals have highlighted similarities as well as differences on the overall effects to the physical, biological, and chemical components of a stream system. This talk will explore many of the known effects of small dam removal on the ecology of stream systems, highlighting the Manatawny Creek study, and will discuss monitoring considerations when evaluating future dam removals.

Leandro Castello, Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute, Brazil, and College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, USA
Conserving the Amazon várzea floodplains in Brazil depends, among other things, on community-based management (CBM) schemes, so increasing the numbers and the effectiveness of CBM is important. In an ecosystem characterized by marginalization of local fishers, poorly developed government institutions, and an open-access natural resource use regime, a model now exists for the CBM of pirarucu (Arapaima gigas). Pirarucu is a giant and obligate air-breathing fish that is vulnerable to extinction. Every year, local fishers at the Mamirauá Reserve assess the population of pirarucu by counting the fish at the moment of aerial breathing and then use the data to determine fishing quotas for the next year. The Mamirauá Institute mediates negotiations between the fishers and the government and assists in the selling of the catch. The fishers commit to obeying size, season, and quota regulations, and earn exclusive rights over the local pirarucu. Where this model was implemented, fishers saw profits double and pirarucu populations recovered by doubling in numbers every year. Following spontaneous requests from the fishers, the number of communities involved was increased from four to more than 30. By matching and assigning the responsibilities of each stakeholder group with the appropriate levels of capacity and scale, this CBM model conserves the pirarucu and establishes an ecologically benign social structure.

Sandra Caziani, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Salta-CONICET, Argentina; Fundación YUCHAN
Patricia Marconi, Fundación YUCHAN, Argentina
The “altiplano” of the Central Andes extends through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Perú, between 3,500 and 4,500 m above sea level. Numerous endorrheic basins form lakes and salt pans (called “salares”), producing patches of aquatic habitat within a desert matrix. At a landscape scale, the typically dissimilar wetlands form complex habitats that are seasonally and spatially diverse. Hypersaline shallow lakes have abundant diatoms but no macrophytes, attracting large numbers of Andean (Phoenicoparrus andinus) and James flamingos (P. jamesi). The deepest lakes are rich in zooplankton and macrophytes, with higher waterbird diversity. Giant and horned coots, silvery grebe (Podiceps occipitalis), crested duck (Lophonetta specularioides), and Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) are characteristic of deep lakes.

High Andes wetlands, their biodiversity, and the environmental goods and services they bring to local people are threatened by mining expansion, underground water pumping, geothermal energy production, gas pipelines and power lines, unregulated tourism, overgrazing, the gathering of firewood, and egg collection. The complementary use of these environments by native fauna and local people suggests that long-term conservation goals would be best achieved by considering these lakes from a regional landscape perspective, and thus proposing its protection and integrated management through cooperative action of the four countries sharing the Altiplano.

To address altiplano integrated management, in December 1996 the Grupo para la Conservación de Flamencos Altoandinos (High-Andean Flamingos Conservation Group) (GCFA) was created with the participation of scientists and natural resource managers of the four countries which share the species,Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Perú.To date, main GCFA achievements at the regional scale include establishing common criteria for wetlands baseline studies and monitoring and prioritizing key sites.

Ning Labbish Chao, Universidade Federal do Amazonas, Manaus, AM Brazil and Bio-Amazonia Conservation International, Baltimore, MD United States
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that the wildlife trade is “evil,” Project Piaba was developed to advocate and enhance an existing extractive ornamental fishery to alleviate pressure on environmentally damaging activities and poverty in the Rio Negro basin, Brazil. We have achieved goals of biological data acquisition and fishery monitoring, and of involving fisher communities and stakeholders. Yet, our work over the past fifteen years has generated several findings of concern: (1) the fishery is almost completely based on a single species, cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi), which constitutes over 80% of a total annual catch of 40 million and thus it is vulnerable; (2) large scale cultivation of Amazon fishes outside the region and introduction of invasive species would endanger the fishery or trade; (3) the paradigm of bottom-up management involving all stakeholders is not often applicable within the local social and cultural framework. The loss of the fishery would be disastrous for the region socio-economically and environmentally. Although significant changes on attitudes toward rainforest and wetland conservation have occurred in the local communities, a strong and persistent local leader with political connections and global views has yet to emerge. Is our slogan “Buy a fish save a tree” too pretentious?

Dan Danielopol, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Limnology, Austria
Photography or video of aquatic cave life is a highly appreciated subject for the public, widely distributed by TV media. It is less frequent to see the life existing in micro-porous (or loosely packed) sediments. Experience with an easy videographical technique for the observation of porous systems and their living interstitial organisms is presented. With a mini-video camera slipping through a lucid piezometre tube, one is able, from the earth’s surface, to observe the way groundwater dwelling animals move through the space between sandy-gravel grains. Additionally, details of microhabitat structures, like biofilms developed by interstitial microorganisms, can also be captured in a dynamic way. Hence, lay people are able to follow the natural life within loosely packed sediments. It is a common belief that the subterranean environment is very constraining due to its low energetic resources and lack of light, and that only few animals can sustain perennial populations in such environment. The sites we investigated lay within the wetlands of the Danube in an Austrian National Park, closely located to Vienna and colonised by a diverse groundwater fauna with unique or very rarely encountered species. The information acquired by videography is useful to better understand the ecology of those poorly known animals. Videography is also valuable for educational and/or environmental conservation programs. Many people looking to our video material and receiving information about species which exclusively live in subterranean waters got, for the first time, the feeling that this environment is worth to be protected because of its support to diverse organismic assemblages. It helps therefore to convey to the public the importance of services and goods provided by groundwater ecological systems. Finally we show how we integrated videography of subterranean organisms within a program dealing with the history and culture of the city of Vienna.

Pierre de Villiers, Environmental Affairs Directorate, Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs, Free State Province, South Africa
The South African government in general and more specifically the different Conservation Departments are faced with the challenge of how to conserve biodiversity, but not at the cost of social uplift in the country. The balance between biodiversity conservation and development is a fine one. Neither can be focused on alone. A great deal of funding is rightly being channeled into the Social Departments, but the Conservation Departments are left to develop methods to conserve biodiversity with minimal Governmental funding. The concept of conservancies, protected areas owned privately and managed in accordance with conservation legislation, is not a new one. However, conservancies in the past have often been isolated farms, where the owners simply wish to participate in some form of conservation initiative. The critical issue now is that Conservation Departments must identify sensitive areas, convince the landowners to buy into the conservation ethic, and finally link these conservation areas to form an overall ecosystem or biosphere conservation area.

Members of the Orange Vaal Yellowfish Conservation and Management Association are attempting to do this using the riparian ecosystem as the target ecosystem. Important habitats and their associated sensitive indicator species have been identified. The two endemic Yellowfish species are the identified indicator species in the Orange Vaal River system. Angling for these species has been popularized to such an extent that landowners now conserve the fish and their habitat as a basis upon which a tourism industry can be created. In other words the fields of conservation and development are being managed together to achieve the overall goal of biodiversity conservation and social uplift.

Lucy Emerton, Regional Group Head, Asia Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Sri Lanka
From an economic viewpoint, freshwater ecosystems remain some of Africa’s most under-valued resources. Wetlands all over the continent have been modified, converted, over-exploited, and degraded in the interests of other seemingly more “productive” or “profitable” land and resource management options. Yet in all too many cases this has ultimately proved to be economically sub-optimal, both in light of the development goals that have caused the freshwater ecosystem loss and degradation in the first place, and also for the human populations that depend on wetland goods and services.

The paper focuses on three case studies from Africa, describing the methodologies and approaches that can be used to assess and articulate the economic value of freshwater ecosystems, and to use this information to influence development decision-making. The case of the Tana River in Kenya describes how wetland valuation has been used to influence the design of a major hydropower dam so as to assure downstream waterflow and economic benefits. The case of Waza Logone Floodplain in Cameroon describes how floodplain restoration to mitigate the impacts of a large-scale irrigation scheme has acted as an important contributor to regional poverty alleviation strategies. The case of Nakivubo Swamp in Uganda outlines how wetland wise use and management can help to achieve urban development goals.

Max Finlayson, International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka, Director, Environmental Research, Department of Environment and Heritage, Australian Government, Darwin, Australia
Changes in the wetlands across the vast area of tropical northern Australia are occurring at a number of scales and caused by multiple pressures operating at different spatial and temporal scales. As examples, invasive species have long been a threat and have greatly changed many wetlands; pollution has been more specific; grazing by cattle and feral buffalo and changes in fire regimes have had both specific and more widespread effects. At the same time, global climate change is a serious threat to all low-lying floodplains. While monitoring has occurred, much of it has not greatly enhanced management responses. The reasons for this are not simply an inadequate supply of funds. Key issues include the non-specific nature of the many pressures and the large scales across which they operate. Much of the monitoring has not been well connected with the interests and needs of local people, or it has had little predictive capacity. These are not new issues. The real innovation lies with the successful engagement of local people/communities to agree and implement suitable programs. Current efforts are focusing on developing more inclusive collaborative approaches, including identifying the role and responsibility of technical experts and community members, and especially, involving local people in risk assessments and evaluations that determine the monitoring directions. The monitoring may or may not engage local people – the technical complexity and scale need to be considered. The key mechanisms are the basic concepts of consultation and communication built around personal relationships and technical competence coupled with empowerment of the community.

Stanley Gregory, Professor, Oregon State University, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, USA
Landscapes throughout the world are facing increased rates of land conversion, often in the face of increasing human populations. Decisions about resource use frequently are made under intense public pressure and short timeframes. Our research in the Willamette River basin has analyzed trajectories of ecosystem change from 1850 to the present and potential trajectories through 2050. We documented trajectories of change in watershed land cover, channel structure, and riparian plant communities for all 2nd-4th-order tributaries and the 270-km mainstem of the Willamette River. We also mapped current human systems (population density, buildings and roads, public lands, land values, land use) as measures of social opportunities and constraints. We also measured the consequences in future alternatives as described by stakeholders in the Willamette River basin. Scenarios of change from 2000 to 2050 were developed for current policies and practices, development alternatives, and conservation alternatives. Current policies and practices resulted in continued but decreased rates of decline in fish and wildlife communities, but plausible conservation practices resulted in the reversal of such declines. We are developing and will illustrate a multi-agent model of future landscape change based on people’s decisions about economic and ecological scarcity on the lands they own or manage.

Olivier Hamerlynck, Former Advisor, IUCN Wetlands and Water Resources Programme
In the 1960s, the floodplains and delta of the Senegal River were a patchwork of thriving wetland ecosystems supporting a range of livelihoods. Sedentary fishermen and their grass-collecting spouses, desert nomads with camels, and Sahelian nomads with cattle found ample resources after decades of generally adequate natural floods. The drought of the 1970s reduced the Senegal River to a trickle, decimated livestock, sedentarised the nomads, and made natural resource dependent livelihoods precarious. In response, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania created a river basin authority that planned the sectoral development of irrigation, hydropower, and river transport and built two large dams to achieve ambitious development goals. The environment and traditional livelihoods were low to inexistent on the agenda, and in the 1980s, after completion of the dams, most flood-dependent ecosystems were in a dire state. In particular, the Mauritanian part of the delta became a saline desert, characterised by rural to shantytown drift. In the 1990s, these trends were reversed and the area was revived through managed flood releases into the Diawling National Park and an artificial estuary. The local tribes, familiar with “traditional” protected area management, were initially hostile to conservation. Gaining their confidence and cooperation in planning, monitoring, and evaluation was slow, difficult, and characterised by numerous setbacks. Helped by the favourable results of the negotiated consensus flood scenario, various user groups increasingly adhered to conservation for sustainable use. However, development expectations not fulfilled, e.g. a drinking water supply, still foster tension between communities and the protected area management authority.

Stephen Hamilton, Associate Professor of Zoology, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, USA
Remote sensing is increasingly important in providing a foundation for conservation planning. Advances in technological capabilities as well as data analysis and accessibility promise further gains in the future. A group of remote sensing scientists convened prior to this symposium to take stock of progress and to articulate priorities for future research in freshwater remote sensing to support conservation efforts. New technologies will substantially improve our understanding of freshwater environments, although remote sensing applications for conservation would be optimized with concerted international efforts to link field data collection with remote sensing data analysis. Remote sensing contributes critical information for conservation planning that spans spatial scales from meters to tens of kilometers, as demonstrated with examples from remote regions of South America and elsewhere. Currently available remote sensing data sources include optical sensors, passive microwave emission, synthetic aperture radar, and elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Spatial data analysis approaches, including hydrological modeling in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and object-oriented image analysis, are rapidly evolving. The conservation community needs to keep abreast of the growing potential of these data and tools.

Zeb Hogan, Aquatic Ecologist, University of Wisconsin, USA
Southeast Asia’s Mekong River supports a vast freshwater fishery. One of the species caught by local fishers is the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), which, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, is the planet’s largest freshwater fish — it can measure 3 meters long and weigh 300 kilograms. But fewer and fewer examples of this huge fish have turned up in nets recently, and last year the World Conservation Union added this catfish to its list of critically endangered species. Although the loss of this charismatic fish would be a tragedy in itself, the plight of the Mekong giant catfish also highlights the precarious position of other large, migratory species inhabiting the Mekong River.This presentation describes research to understand the behavior of these fish in hopes of improving the chances for their long-term conservation. Conservation efforts include a direct program of buy-and-release, tagging, genetic analysis, and outreach. The results of the study have important implications for the sustainable development of the basin and the long-term management of migratory species.

Paul Johnson, Director, Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute, USA
Steven A. Ahlstedt, Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey
Recent conservation assessments have demonstrated that freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Bivalvia) are the most critically imperiled animals in North America. Having specific habitat requirements, most mussels require clean, flowing waters and stable river channels to thrive. Within the last 80 years, dam construction, dredging, river navigation projects, and toxic point-source releases destroyed the best populations in the most productive large river habitats. This widespread habitat destruction drove some 36 species to extinction and rendered more than a third of remaining species critically imperiled. Habitat destruction from dams is not restricted to pools, but also extends into the free flowing tail-waters below the dams. Specifically, low dissolved oxygen, depressed water temperatures, and channel destabilization are common problems that can extend for tens of kilometers below reservoir pools. However, these tail water affects can be drastically mitigated to improve conditions for riverine species. Such is the case with Normandy Dam on the Duck River, a flood-control, water supply reservoir operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that controls some 95% of the river’s length. In 1991, TVA completed major modifications improving dissolved oxygen levels and seasonal discharge cycles during critical spring and summer mussel and fish spawning periods. Mussel abundance and species richness per site increased drastically from previous surveys in years before discharge and dissolved oxygen restoration. With 53 extant species, the Duck River likely has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels for any river globally. Dam tail-water restoration through dissolved oxygen mitigation, improved temperature conditions, and stabilization of discharges can provide suitable habitat rapidly, whereas traditional watershed restoration methods may take decades to achieve. We advocate an emphasis on tail-water restoration by conservation organizations as a rapid habitat recovery technique. Efforts to cultivate freshwater mollusks are under development and great strides have been made in the last decade. What is now required to save additional species are large, productive river habitat suitable to attempt reintroduction and recovery efforts.

Wolfgang J. Junk, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Germany
Protection of wetland biodiversity has been addressed mostly in terms of wetland species and/or specific wetland habitats. However, in wetlands with strongly oscillating water levels (floodplains), periodic drought in the aquatic-terrestrial transition zone is of fundamental importance for biogeochemical cycles, productivity, and species diversity as shown by the Flood Pulse Concept (FPC, Junk et al. 1989, Junk & Wantzen 2004, Junk 2005). This is demonstrated in the Pantanal, a large wetland of about 160,000 km2 in the center of South America. Large parts of the area are periodically flooded by the Paraguay River and its tributaries, and by local rains. This monomodal, rather predictable flood pulse is the major driving force of the system. It influences the occurrence, population size, and distribution of plants and animals and determines their life history traits. Topographical changes of a few meters in height, resulting from paleo and recent river activity, lead to considerable spatial differences in flood height and duration and result in high habitat and species diversity, including aquatic, palustric, and terrestrial species. Fire becomes an additional stress factor during the pronounced dry period. Reactions of flora and fauna to the annual and multi-annual changing water levels can now be predicted by the FPC, which can be applied for all wetlands with strongly fluctuating water levels. The FPC is becoming the scientific basis for sustainable management of floodplains, including the protection of biodiversity.

Richard Kingsford, Professor of Environmental Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Australia
Australia is a dry continent with about 70% of its land mass receiving < 500 mm year-1. Rainfall events are highly variable, producing flooding on inland rivers that inundate large floodplains and wetlands, providing habitat for many biota, including waterbirds. Waterbirds capitalise on uncertainty in the availability of wetland areas through highly nomadic movements, following flood events and breeding when food resources are high. Many rivers and wetlands in the southeast no longer flood to the same extent and frequency as they did naturally because of abstractions of water for irrigated agriculture. Water is diverted upstream of river systems that supplied some of the more biodiverse wetlands on the continent. Traditional forms of protection through protected areas and Ramsar nominations have failed to protect these wetland areas. Rehabilitation costs are increasing as wetland areas degrade. The Australian Governments are spending $Aus 500 million to rehabilitate the River Murray in southeastern Australia. At the same time, some of Australia’s less developed rivers (in the tropics and central Australia) are becoming the new frontiers for river development. There is a need to establish a more strategic framework for river and wetland conservation in Australia that recognises the many mechanisms that can protect significant areas and different spatial scales. This framework would need to identify rivers, estuaries and wetlands of high conservation value across Australia. Once identified, two main options exist for protection: 1) whole river basin protection or 2) protection of dependent ecosystems at the catchment scale. Two new examples of multilateral (Lake Eyre Basin Agreement) or bilateral agreements (Paroo River Agreement) between governments exist that protect flows in whole river systems. These were developed by governments with pressure primarily from river communities. Such a model could be the basis for an Australian Heritage Rivers system to protect whole river basins, like that in Canada. For adequate protection of dependent freshwater ecosystems, a much wider focus is required that includes protected areas (including aquatic reserves) acquisition and management, environmental flows, natural resource management and incentives. Together or in part, they can effect long-term protection of dependent ecosystems (river segments, estuaries, wetlands)—but this will depend on political and community will.

Roland Knapp, Research Biologist, Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, University of California, USA
The majority of mountain lakes worldwide were naturally fishless, and as a consequence harbored a unique vertebrate and invertebrate fauna. During the past century, intentional fish introductions have profoundly altered these sensitive ecosystems by extirpating native fauna and rearranging ecosystem processes. The severity of these impacts is now widely recognized, and has prompted increasing interest in restoring some mountain lakes to their natural fishless condition. It remains unclear, however, whether fish removal alone is sufficient to allow ecosystem recovery. We removed nonnative trout populations from a series of alpine lakes in California’s Sierra Nevada, and quantified subsequent faunal recovery. Following fish removal, the faunal composition of the study lakes diverged from that characteristic of fish-containing lakes and after seven years, had converged on that characteristic of naturally fishless lakes. In addition, the total invertebrate biomass in the fish removal lakes increased more than an order of magnitude. The spectacular recovery of the aquatic ecosystem has also had surprising consequences for the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, particularly for alpine-nesting birds. These results suggest that the impacts of fish introductions are more far-reaching than previously believed, but also that these impacts can in some cases be reversed.

Bernhard Lehner, Freshwater GIS Specialist, Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund, USA
The bottleneck in conducting hydrological analyses is often the lack of available data and information, particularly in remote areas. For many hydrological applications, from watershed delineation to advanced modeling, the most essential and versatile data set is a digital elevation map. With Geographical Information Systems (GIS), many other data sets can be derived from this core product, including watershed boundaries, river networks, flow distances and connections, slopes, or even erosion and soil moisture indices. In turn, these products are important for understanding how hydrology and biology interact to support freshwater species and habitats, and how threats are propagated and must be addressed. Recently, a new elevation data set (SRTM - Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) became available, which covers nearly the entire global land surface at 90 m resolution. Scientists at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are currently post-processing this data so that the above-mentioned products can be derived. At the same time, relatively easy to use GIS tools are developed for the handling of the hydrological data in different analyses. These include hydrographic tools (for basic watershed analyses and classifications), hydrologic tools (to incorporate results of existing global or regional modeling systems), and decision support tools (to help identify priority areas or to better understand complex processes). Data and tools have already been successfully tested for a remote portion of the southwest Amazon basin and for the Guyana Shield.

Mamie Parker, Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USA
Freshwater biodiversity conservation is a central component of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission, one the agency has proudly advanced for over a century. To maximize conservation successes, we must take a step back, focus on the landscape, work with many different partners, and employ a wide array of tools. Fortunately, many of these tools have a track record of results. A recent agreement on the Penobscot River in Maine, for example, will remove a couple of dams and provide fish passage around another, ultimately helping restore Atlantic salmon to historic spawning grounds – while at the same time maintaining an important source of hydropower. In addition, our partnership programs with private landowners are helping restore important instream, wetland, and riparian habitats, empowering citizens to play a leadership conservation role in their communities. Although some successes are notable, we clearly understand many pressures rising on the horizon will require innovative approaches and strategic investments. To this end, we are leading an initiative focused on fish habitat conservation. We are also compiling baseline information for aquatic populations and sharing it widely, which will help people direct limited resources to the highest priorities. In addition, we are partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey and highlighting four issues that will become even more critical in the years ahead: invasive species, water resources, climate change, and biotechnology. Our goal is to prepare today to effectively address the challenges of tomorrow.

Edward T. Rankin, Center for Applied Bioassessment and Criteria, Columbus, Ohio, USA
The Clean Water Act directs states to set aquatic life goals or “uses” for their surface waters and to derive criteria to protect these uses to restore “chemical, physical, and biological integrity.” Traditionally, states relied on chemistry-based criteria to manage and assess their waters. Direct measures of aquatic life goals by monitoring biological communities were less common and not well integrated into water quality standards programs in states. In the late 1980s several states, particularly Maine and Ohio, derived “biocriteria” for their water quality standards that were direct measures of aquatic communities designed to protect aquatic life uses. Here I provide examples of how these states have used biocriteria to demonstrate the success of point source abatements and to identify the current stressors (e.g., habitat degradation, siltation and sedimentation, loss of natural flow regimes and nutrient enrichment) that now limit biological integrity. I will also illustrate how long-term monitoring data from these efforts has been used to examine watershed scale influences of stressors such as habitat, on losses of biodiversity in these watersheds. These data sets are proving useful for quantifying cumulative impacts at watershed scales and are identifying limits to populations of sensitive fish and invertebrate taxa related to anthropogenic disturbances such as habitat loss. Lines drawn along observed biodiversity thresholds can be considered “extirpation” curves and have strong implications for restoration efforts at local and watershed scales.

Paul Skelton, Managing Director, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
Conservation is essentially a process of human intervention to safeguard natural systems and is inextricably linked to prevailing socio-economic and political circumstances in any region. Indigenous scientific services are generally scarce in developing countries. In South Africa, a mixed (i.e. developing) economy, nature conservation agencies were established only in the 1950s, long after the emergence of major threats to freshwater fishes such as the introduction of alien predators. The science of conservation biology evolved over the latter half of the 20th Century, so that the role that taxonomists as knowledge-agents for biodiversity has necessarily changed as the ranks of specialist conservation biologists grew. In this presentation the role of taxonomic science in the conservation of freshwater fishes in South Africa is considered against a context of socio-economic and political revolution. The issues are traced through the history of selected examples of seriously threatened species and the major threats affecting the survival of the communities.

In the 1930s Dr Keppel Barnard focusing on the diversity of southern freshwater fish fauna, was the first taxonomist to sound a warning that indigenous freshwater fishes were under threat from introduced alien sportfishes. His warning proved ominously accurate and by the 1960s further concerns were raised by taxonomists exposing even that some species might already be extinct. In the 1950s and 1960s a scarcity of local taxonomists forced conservation agencies to provide their own taxonomic services, and this factor, coupled to the authoritarian nature of conservation agencies effectively excluded external opinion from effective conservation influence at that time. However, in the 1970s a measure of systematic influence was affected through the international threatened faunal assessments introduced by the IUCN. A conservation assessment of freshwater fishes in South Africa was carried out in 1976/7, and again in the 1987. In South Africa the lack of a national conservation agency at the time meant that these assessments were made by independent researchers.

By the 1980s the prevailing conservation paradigm that supported state intervention in sport fishery development was in decline as a new generation of conservation biologists assumed dominance. In South Africa this demise coincided with the decline and eventual revolutionary overthrow of the Eurocentric socio-political order that had dominated South African society and its development for the past three centuries. The new Afrocentric order that emerged dismantled and restructured the legislative and administrative governing structures in the country and created huge opportunities for innovation under a socio-political paradigm that espouses openness, inclusivity and knowledge sharing. Taxonomic science is embracing modern conservation biology and contributing significantly to the addressing pressing freshwater fish conservation in the region. Much recent research involves the dialogue and active interaction and collaboration between conservation agencies, academic researchers including taxonomists/systematists, private sector consultants and even private-sector sportfishing interests. Several innovative partnerships provide possible ways forward for the developed, as much as the developing, world. Times of change present challenges and opportunities for innovation not generally available in times of (paradigm) stability.

Boris Sket, Professor of Zoology and Speleobiology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia is a country rich in cave and interstitial groundwater habitats, and early in 1920 a Slovenian Memorandum suggested protection of karst caves in general. Recent censuses have shown that approximately 8% of European aquatic fauna are highly endemic troglobionts; Slovenia appeared to be comparatively the richest in the world. Molecular analyses even show a certain degree of cryptic diversity within a cave.

In practice, formal protection of troglobiotic species mainly “protects” them from scientific research, the main support of meaningful protection (with limits on collection, which rarely endangers a species). Nevertheless, such protection acts are still common throughout the world, avoiding protection of the habitat. The threats to the groundwater fauna are largely from the surface: pollution, pesticides and fertilizers, urbanization, and hydrotechnical works. We have been able to show that organic inputs allow alien (surface) species to outcompete troglobionts underground.

In 2004 we succeeded in bringing habitat protection into Slovenian legislation (covering nearly all subterranean environment), and only some commercially interesting collector’s items are now protected. Some European Union (EU) directives or international actions will likely contribute to conservation success although this has not yet been borne out. The Natura 2000 puts over 30% of Slovenian territory under certain protection regimes, and a big part of this is in karst or along riverbeds (i.e. with cave or interstitial waters). We have not yet succeeded in protecting any faunistically important cave as a Ramsar subterranean wetland, but the process has begun. Discouragingly, however, the EU Water Directive totally ignores the existence of biota in groundwaters.

Rebecca Tharme, International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka
Water resource development continues to lead to the degradation of wetland systems — driven, among other factors, by alterations to their flow regimes. In response, a science of environmental flow assessment has become established, whereby the quantity and quality of water required for ecosystem maintenance are determined. Currently, over 200 methodologies are being applied in some 50 countries worldwide. Different policy and institutional backgrounds, basin development and management options, types of aquatic ecosystems, as well as socio-economic and resource contexts have necessitated such a range in alternative approaches to setting environmental flows. Several areas of innovation have emerged surrounding the diversity of paths adopted and there have been important paradigm shifts. Among the evolving innovations is a multi-tier application of environmental flow methodologies to cater for ecosystem water requirements at different levels of resolution. Hydrology-based methodologies, the type of approach most commonly applied at the basin planning level, are advancing to ensure greater ecological relevance and transferability. Additionally, a natural flow paradigm has catalyzed an increasing shift from simplistic minimum flows to more explicit consideration of natural flow variability. At more detailed scales of assessment, hydrodynamic habitat modeling for target species is developing as only one of a far broader suite of tools that aims to address whole-ecosystem flow requirements, based on explicit links between changes in flow regime and biophysical response. The new body of more holistic methodologies has paved the way for multidisciplinary innovation in areas including hydrology-ecology modeling, scenario generation, and linking ecological change to socio-economic consequences for people’s livelihoods. Rapid uptake of such innovations is under way in developing countries where, although environmental flow research is in its infancy, pressures on aquatic ecosystems and demands for further water resource development are tremendous. The opportunity exists to capitalize on such areas of innovation and strategically build the capacity to advance them.

Tint Tun, Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar Program Office, Myanmar
A "critically endangered" freshwater population of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) survives isolated more than 1,000 km from the sea in a 372 km segment of the Ayeyarwady River, Myanmar. The most immediate threats to the population are probably accidental entanglement in gillnets and electrocution and depletion of prey from electric fishing. Additionally, the population is threatened by habitat degradation from gold mining operations and possibly mercury toxicity. Irrawaddy dolphins are generally revered by local people and they provide direct economic benefits to cast-net fishermen via their role in a human-dolphin cooperative fishery. The Wildlife Conservation Society, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and Myanmar Department of Fisheries are developing plans for conserving the population. These plans entail enforcing laws that prohibit electricity fishing, establishing one or more protected areas where gillnetting would be eliminated or dramatically reduced, and monitoring the dolphin population and factors that threaten its survival. Management strategies will capitalize on the already positive attitude of fishermen to the dolphins by promoting the cooperative fishery. If deemed desirable, after learning more about the animals and consulting extensively with local fishermen, opportunities would be provided for income generation from small scale “ecotourism.”The idea would be to establish a certification process where qualifying fishermen would be able to make extra money by taking small groups of tourists out in their boats to observe the dolphins and the cast-net fishing technique. This money would be an enormous help to these generally impoverished fishermen and may also be an option to partially compensate local fisheries departments and townships for lost revenue from permits no longer sold for gill netting concessions as these are eliminated on a stepwise basis.

Jake Vander Zanden, Assistant professor, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Center for Limnology, USA
Hucho taimen, the world’s largest salmonid, has suffered dramatic declines across Chinese and Russian portions of its historical range. Because the consumption of wild fish is not part of traditional Mongolian culture, many Mongolian rivers maintain healthy taimen populations, thus providing a unique fisheries conservation opportunity. Recreational taimen fishing from foreign tourists has expanded rapidly in the past decade. While this expansion of fishing could easily produce population declines, it may also provide an opportunity to develop a non-extractive fishery that provides local economic benefits, while simultaneously creating incentives for river conservation. We are presently developing a managed catch-and-release fishery for taimen in a major watershed in northwestern Mongolia. Concession units are being designated based on demographic and migration data being collected for taimen. Rights to catch-and-release fishing in these concession units are leased to outfitters, generating money for anti-poaching enforcement and community outreach. This project involves participation of diverse stakeholders—the local Buddhist leadership, fly fishing outfitters, the non-profit group Taimen Conservation Fund, scientists, and local community leaders in an effort to create incentives for protection of the river ecosystems that support taimen, thereby serving as a vehicle for river conservation.

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