Integrated terrestrial-freshwater planning doubles conservation of tropical aquatic species

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Science  02 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6512, pp. 117-121
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba7580

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Consider both water and land

When designing terrestrial reserves, it is common to consider the needs of species and systems from a terrestrial perspective, with an assumption that any freshwater systems will benefit as well. Leal et al. tested this assumption by analyzing data from two locations in the Brazilian Amazon and found that it is far from accurate: Terrestrial systems confer little benefit to freshwater systems (see the Perspective by Abell and Harrison). However, the authors also found that integrating the needs of freshwater species into overall reserve planning increased freshwater benefits by 600% while only decreasing terrestrial outcomes by 1%. They argue that reserve planning must take freshwater systems into account if they are to protect across both realms.

Science, this issue p. 117; see also p. 38


Conservation initiatives overwhelmingly focus on terrestrial biodiversity, and little is known about the freshwater cobenefits of terrestrial conservation actions. We sampled more than 1500 terrestrial and freshwater species in the Amazon and simulated conservation for species from both realms. Prioritizations based on terrestrial species yielded on average just 22% of the freshwater benefits achieved through freshwater-focused conservation. However, by using integrated cross-realm planning, freshwater benefits could be increased by up to 600% for a 1% reduction in terrestrial benefits. Where freshwater biodiversity data are unavailable but aquatic connectivity is accounted for, freshwater benefits could still be doubled for negligible losses of terrestrial coverage. Conservation actions are urgently needed to improve the status of freshwater species globally. Our results suggest that such gains can be achieved without compromising terrestrial conservation goals.

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