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February 21, 2023

National CASC Fish Biologist Abigail Lynch worked with an international team of researchers to describe nine ways that freshwater biodiversity is critical to humans.

Freshwater ecosystems support the health and well-being of humans through a myriad of services, beyond food and recreation. Yet, staggering rates of freshwater biodiversity loss and declining ecological function of freshwater ecosystems threaten these natural benefits to humans.  

To outline the critical importance of freshwater biodiversity to people, National CASC Fish Biologist Abigail Lynch led a team of international experts to define the benefits that freshwater biodiversity provides. Published in the journal WIREs Water, the team identified nine fundamental services of freshwater biodiversity, which were grouped into three main categories: material (food, material goods, health and genetic resources), non-material (recreation, culture, science and education), and regulating (climate regulation, catchment regulation, water purification and nutrient cycling). Supported by real-world examples in each category, the authors describe the detriment to human society that would occur in the absence of freshwater biodiversity, from lost pharmaceutical advances to heightened food insecurity, and the erasure of traditional and modern cultural practices. Lynch summarized the importance of the various organisms that live in freshwater and noted that with this information, "Policymakers can integrate biodiversity conservation more fully into water management."  

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