Oral Presentation International Conference on River Connectivity (Fish Passage 2018)

Connectivity for future freshwater conservation – biophysical and institutional issues (#166)

Max Finlayson 1
  1. Charles Sturt University, ALBURY, NSW, Australia

The demise of freshwater ecosystems globally has been widely documented and represented in global assessments and intergovernmental processes, yet it still occurs. The most recent evidence comes from global assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The issues of connectivity across scales, including within streams and between streams and floodplains and across catchments and further across landscapes and continents has been well exposed through such processes. At the same time the responses have often covered the need to reconnect these systems, to manage across landscapes, and to do this through multiple sectors. In considering the protection of freshwater ecosystems a number of principles have also been identified and relate to:

  • the intimate links that exist between freshwater ecosystems and surrounding catchments
  • the importance of the water regime for managing freshwater ecosystems
  • the hydrological, biogeochemical and ecological connectivity that occurs within and between freshwater ecosystems
  • the protection of hot spots of native freshwater biodiversity, endemism and endangered species, and
  • the maintenance of ecological resilience in freshwater ecosystems of the present and in the future.

These issues are not new, and given the continuing declines, we can conclude that our institutional arrangements have been insufficient to stem the problems which underpin the abovementioned principles. Given this situation and adding a further layer associated with global change and the stretching of planetary boundaries it is proposed that a new paradigm is needed and one that may not be met by current institutional connections. It may also break the connection between the ecosystems that we had and those we will have. Thus, our future freshwater ecosystems may be disconnected from those of the past. And our institutions definitely should be, after all haven’t they failed?