Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation

Freshwater species and habitats are among the most threatened in the world. One way in which this growing conservation concern can be addressed is the creation of freshwater protected areas. Here, we present three strategies for freshwater protected-area design and management: whole-catchment management, natural-flow maintenance, and exclusion of non-native species. These strategies are based on the three primary threats to fresh waters: land-use disturbances, altered hydrologies, and introduction of non-native species. Each strategy draws from research in limnology and river and wetland ecology. Ideally, freshwater protected areas should be located in intact catchments, should have natural hydrological regimes, and should contain no non-native species. Because optimal conservation conditions are often difficult to attain, we also suggest alternative management strategies, including multiple-use modules, use of the river continuum concept, vegetated buffer strips, partial water discharges, and eradication of exotic species. Under some circumstances it may be possible to focus freshwater conservation efforts on two key zones: adjacent terrestrial areas and headwaters.

Saunders, D.K., Meeuwig J.J. & A.C.J. Vincent (2002). Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation. Conservation Biology 16:31-40.