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The conservation status of the world’s freshwater molluscs

Abstract

With the biodiversity crisis continuing unchecked, we need to establish levels and drivers of extinction risk, and reassessments over time, to effectively allocate conservation resources and track progress towards global conservation targets. Given that threat appears particularly high in freshwaters, we assessed the extinction risk of 1428 randomly selected freshwater molluscs using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria, as part of the Sampled Red List Index project. We show that close to one-third of species in our sample are estimated to be threatened with extinction, with highest levels of threat in the Nearctic, Palearctic and Australasia and among gastropods. Threat levels were higher in lotic than lentic systems. Pollution (chemical and physical) and the modification of natural systems (e.g. through damming and water abstraction) were the most frequently reported threats to freshwater molluscs, with some regional variation. Given that we found little spatial congruence between species richness patterns of freshwater molluscs and other freshwater taxa, apart from crayfish, new additional conservation priority areas emerged from our study. We discuss the implications of our findings for freshwater mollusc conservation, the adequacy of a sampled approach and important next steps to estimate trends in freshwater mollusc extinction risk over time.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is dedicated to our co-author, friend and mentor Ben Collen, champion of the sampled approach to Red Listing and friend of understudied species. The authors would like to acknowledge the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (NIDR and MB) and the Rufford Foundation (MB) for their generous support. MV is supported by the Russian Fund for Basic Research (project No. 19-04-00270). We are grateful to the Biodiversity Synthesis Center for funding a major assessment workshop in London in 2010. For data compilation and workshop group facilitation, we thank Anne-Marie Soulsby, Ellie Dyer, Felix Whitton, Gita Kasthala and Shane McGuinness; for additional work on draft assessments, we thank Clare Duncan, Amy Collins, Kirsten McMillan, Suzanne Offord, Julia Thorley, Rebecca Herdson, Harriet Milligan, Greta Carrete-Vega and Jordi Corbella.

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Böhm, M., Dewhurst-Richman, N.I., Seddon, M. et al. The conservation status of the world’s freshwater molluscs. Hydrobiologia 848, 3231–3254 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-020-04385-w

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Keywords

  • IUCN Red List
  • Extinction risk
  • SRLI
  • Bivalves
  • Gastropods
  • Congruence