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Early warning to freshwater ecosystem threats

September 21, 2023

Absence of insect species is cause for concern

The journal Diversity and Distribution recently published research on the faster decline of freshwater biodiversity compared to both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

Scientists chose vertebrate dragonfly and damselfly species to monitor freshwater habitats due to their sensitivity to ecosystem changes in addition to their range of adaptation. The aquatic insects are likely to migrate in response to  disruptive pressures like water flow regulation, habitat degradation, water pollution, species invasion and overexploitation, as well as increasingly warmer and drier weather.

Lead author of the study and a former graduate student at Utrecht University, John Cadena cited dragonflies as a “keystone species integral to the freshwater system as a predator and a prey.”

As certain areas become warmer and drier, even resulting in less snowfall at higher altitudes, freshwater habitats are anticipated to disappear or desiccate during the warmest, driest part of the year.

Author Leon Marshall, a postdoctoral researcher at the Free University of Brussels and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, explained that dragonflies have the “capability to shift and to follow climate conditions as they change.”

The Species Distribution Modeling (SDM) approach was used to take into account historical distribution patterns, details about soil and rivers, and climate projections. Also scenarios from the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) framework developed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were incorporated. However predictive models about the future of specific water bodies in the regions studied are not yet available.

Author Vincent Kalkman, a freshwater conservation researcher at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, pointed out that rising amounts of precipitation in other areas could increase biodiversity in those places. The introduction of nonnative varieties is not necessarily beneficial.

The scientists urge that biological data inform a “future-proof” network of nature reserves supply the main freshwater systems within a country. Moreover, they advocate for freshwater biodiversity monitoring systems and regional-scale data sharing to understand the impact of water management.

To support holistic freshwater monitoring efforts, KISTERS provides ecological data management software. Now scientists can view and analyze point-in-time biological survey information with continuous water flow and temperature datasets. Retrieve laboratory results from water samples to compare and contrast BMI counts and water chemistry. Apply calculations for standard statistics and indices as well as custom formulas.