Climate Change in Freshwaters

In the run up to COP26, the World Aquatic Scientific Societies highlight the immense threats faced by aquatic ecosystems and call for urgent action on climate change. This alarming message puts water resources and aquatic biodiversity front and centre. Indeed, freshwaters are both disproportionately important and disproportionately at risk from climate change and other human pressures. Although freshwater ecosystems host 10 times the biodiversity per area than the land and the sea, they are often overlooked. 

Freshwater vertebrate populations are declining at a rate almost double that of those on land and in the sea surface, while the planet’s lakes are warming more rapidly, on average at almost three times the rate of the latter. And yet freshwaters are severely underrated in calls for action on climate change and the global biodiversity crisis. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s framework “to preserve and protect nature and its essential services to people” focuses on the land and the sea, overlooking the pivotal role of freshwaters in the earth system.

The Freshwater Biological Association provides essential conservation actions, long-term data, and training to equip amateurs and professionals to engage with the nature and climate emergencies. In the midst of COP26, we echo the call from WWF and the World Aquatic Scientific Societies to encourage world leaders to recognise the extraordinary importance of freshwaters. This is easily achieved by making a small textual change – focus on the land, freshwaters, and the sea. That tiny change has huge implications for the natural world and our place in it. Freshwater ecosystems must no longer be an afterthought. They are the planet’s most essential support for life – human and beyond. 

Image by: Juan Davila