Date: March 14, 2017
Source: Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)
Many large aquatic vertebrates, referred to as freshwater megafauna, cover long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds. To ensure their safe passage, they are dependent on free-flowing waters. However, this makes them vulnerable to the increasing fragmentation of river catchments caused by damming. The Russian sturgeon, for example, has lost 70 per cent of its spawning grounds in the Caspian Sea basin and its entire Black Sea basin spawning grounds over the last 60 years due to dam construction. The boom in dam construction also affects many other species, such as the Amazonian manatee, the Ganges river dolphin and the Mekong giant catfish -- these species are now classified as threatened.
"The fragmentation of habitats is one of the central threats to freshwater megafauna, as well as overexploitation" explained Fengzhi He. The IGB researcher is the lead author of the study on the disappearance of large vertebrates from rivers and lakes, published recently in WIREs Water. According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, more than half of the world's large-bodied vertebrates weighing more than 30 kg that live in freshwater ecosystems are threatened.