Naia M, Hermoso V, Carvalho SB, Brito JC




1. Systematic conservation planning in freshwater ecosystems faces multiple challenges because of the dynamic nature of rivers and their multiple dimensions of connectivity. In intermittent hydrological systems connectivity is functional when water is available, allowing the exchange of aquatic individuals between isolated freshwater ecosystems. Integrating these isolated systems in their hydrological context is essential when identifying priority areas for conservation, in order to try to minimize the propagation of threats into target water bodies (management units) from the surrounding landscape.
2. Here, the use of a systematic planning approach is demonstrated to identify a set of priority management units to preserve freshwater biodiversity in an arid system of fragmented water bodies immersed in a landscape subject to a range of impacts.
3. Twenty-six water-dependent taxa from 59 mountain rock pools (gueltas) of three southern Mauritanian mountains were used as a case study. A conservation planning tool (MARXAN) was used to find priority conservation areas to integrate intermittent hydrological systems in their hydrological context, promote connectivity, and minimize the downstream propagation of threats. Three types of connectivity were analysed: (i) no connectivity, (ii) connectivity between gueltas, and (iii) connectivity between gueltas and sub-catchments.
4. Considering different types of longitudinal connectivity affects the number and spatial allocation of the priority gueltas selected, and the conservation status of the gueltas and their upstream areas. Incorporating connections between gueltas and upstream locations in the modelling resulted in the selection of gueltas in areas with a low human footprint and in the increased connectivity of the solutions.
5. The results obtained revealed important locations for local biodiversity conservation, and the method presented can be used when assessing the propagation of potential waterborne threats into isolated management units. The framework developed allows connectivity to be addressed in conservation planning. It can be replicated in regions with similar isolated habitats that connect through intermittent hydrological systems and can also be applied to lateral and vertical hydrological connectivity..


Journal: Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems

DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3564