Less than 1% of the Earth’s surface is covered by freshwater, yet freshwater ecosystems hold a disproportionately large amount of the world’s species and genetic diversity. At the same time, these ecosystems and species are under threat from human activities. To contribute to halting this biodiversity decline, a new task force of the IUCN Species Survival Commission has been formed and will support bioassessment based on benthic freshwater macroinvertebrates through the standardization and coordination of sampling protocols across countries.

By monitoring freshwater macroinvertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and worms, scientists and conservationists can also monitor freshwater health: presence and abundance of these species provide key information on the status of freshwater ecosystems in relation to anthropogenic threats. Insights from such monitoring thus allows to make smarter decisions in freshwater management.

“Macroinvertebrates are a crucial element of the biodiversity of freshwaters, but they also play important functional roles in these ecosystems. So better understanding where and how they are affected by human activities and to compare findings across space and time is key to manage entire ecosystems as well as the important ecosystem services macroinvertebrates provide to humanity,” said Andreas Bruder, Task Force Co-Chair and Senior Scientist at SUPSI, Switzerland.

While freshwater macroinvertebrate sampling has been well established in some parts of the world, such as Europe, North America or Australia, where continental-wide efforts produce harmonized bioassessments of freshwaters, elsewhere many countries do not have nationally-approved protocols or guidance. This lack of protocols impedes any national-level water management decisions, while the lack of harmonized approaches makes it difficult to communicate and compare the state of freshwaters across borders – this is especially important in the context where freshwater systems are shared between two or more countries.

Further information is available on the IUCN website here.

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