Freshwater biodiversity, and the humans that depend on the associated ecosystem services, are at risk in three of the largest tropical river basins due to unprecedented boom in hydropower development, according to a recent study published in Science. An author of the study, and WWF's lead conservation scientist Michele Thieme released the following statement:
"It’s not a new challenge. Poorly planned and unsustainable infrastructure projects are one of the reasons that populations of freshwater species have declined on average 76% over the last 40 years. As conservation organizations like WWF lead projects to protect biodiversity or save portions of rivers, we can’t help but realize that we’re losing the connectivity of our rivers systems at a grand scale. We need to change the way infrastructure is planned, designed, built and operated if we really intend to secure water for people and nature.
"More accessible and readily available information can help foster transparency and better decision-making, particularly when it comes to protecting high conservation value freshwater ecosystems where they still exist. As a step towards this, WWF and McGill University are working with colleagues across conservation organizations, the private sector, and the academic community to develop a common framework for identifying the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers. Together, we will create an updated global inventory that will feed into the identification of rivers with high conservation value – those that still maintain ideal connectivity for biodiversity and ecosystem service functionality."