Summary description
Due to their importance for human development and well-being, freshwater
ecosystems are among the most threatened and modified in the world; a situation
that is expected to intensify in the future. Freshwaters convey a mix of
novel, historical, and hybrid systems, each with different values and opportunities
for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision. We argue
that securing future access to freshwater services, while halting aquatic biodiversity
loss, requires an evaluation of the opportunities offered and challenges
imposed by each of these types of systems. Such an inventory can then build
the basis to systematically plan restoration, conservation and management
actions with the goal of harmonizing the multiplicity of co-occurring
freshwater-related interests. Developing river basin management plans that
integrate these multiple, often conflicting interests poses complex challenges,
including (1) the current ecosystem condition that defines to a large extent
what type of objectives can realistically be aimed at, (2) socioeconomic needs
that limit our capacity to modify current conditions, for example, drinking
water and energy provided by large dams, and (3) governance constraints
related to managing large, often transboundary, river basins. Multi-objective
management planning rooted in systematic conservation planning can help
overcome these challenges. Consequently, we argue that adequate planning
must play a key role when designing river basin management plans to make
the most of the opportunities associated with local freshwater ecosystem types.
We call for governments to embrace and promote a systematic approach to
river basin management planning to create the urgently needed pan-global
shift toward a sustainable biodiverse freshwater future.
Quality assurance
peer reviewed
open access