21% of Africa's Freshwater Species Threatened With Extinction (Pics)

According to a new report from The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN), a 5-year study involving 200 scientists has found that the flora and fauna of Africa's freshwater ways are threatened with extinction thanks to four main factors: agriculture, water abstraction, dams and invasive species. In all, 21% of the freshwater species are at risk, a huge number that turns right around to threaten the culprits -- the livelihoods of millions of humans are put at risk with such a loss. Despite the dire news, the report is an important one. It is the most comprehensive assessment of its kind thus far, and can be put to use by decision-makers who need to make changes about how Africa's water is being used. Check out a slideshow of some of the threatened species after the jump.
The report highlights how losing just one species -- let alone nearly a quarter of them -- proves difficult for local people.

"Around the great lakes of Africa, fish provide the main source of protein and livelihoods for many of the continent's poorest people. The livelihoods of an estimated 7.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa depend on inland fisheries. These new data will be invaluable in helping to safeguard these fisheries, freshwater supplies and the many other associated resources."

The ICUN report has helped to identify which areas are most in need of conservation efforts. Lake Barombi Mbo in Cameroon has 11 highly threatened species of fish are at risk not from overfishing, but from deforestation. Deforestation increases the risk of large levels of carbon dioxide being released from deep within the lake, a release which will suffocate the fish. Meanwhile in the Congo River, another 11 species of mollusk are threatened with pollution from upstream, which means the stretch of the river where they live will lose a vital filtering system if the mollusks disappear.

"Until now we've not had the information we need about species and the threats they face but, armed with these IUCN Red List assessments, we hope that decision-makers in Africa will now make the right choices to develop their water resources in a sustainable manner whilst protecting and valuing global biodiversity," says Anada Tiéga, Ramsar Secretary General.

Mostly when we hear about Africa's water problems, it is about humans having little access to fresh water supplies and innovative ways we can filter out polluted water to give villages something to drink. But there are other animals suffering from the misuse of water by humans and the changes in water systems brought on by climate change -- a whole lot of other animals. Hopefully this new report will help guide smarter water use decisions, even if it doesn't accomplish a 180-degree turn-around for the future of these species.

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More on Africa's Disappearing Wildlife
Big Mammals Disappearing in Africa's National Parks
African Cheetahs to be Introduced Into India in Three Years
Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs Disappear Completely from Cameroon

Tags: Africa | Animals | Conservation | Water Crisis

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