“Freshwater ecosystems are aquatic systems which contain drinkable water or water of almost no salt content. Freshwater resources include lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, reservoirs, wetlands, and groundwater. They provide the majority of drinking water resources, water resources for agriculture, industry, sanitation, as well as food including fish and shellfish. They also provide recreational opportunities and a means of transportation. In addition, freshwater ecosystems are home to numerous organisms (e.g., fish, amphibians, aquatic plants, and invertebrates). It has been estimated that 40% of all known fish species on Earth come from freshwater ecosystems. Unfortunately, rivers and streams are also among the most endangered habitats.

Despite all of their value and importance, many freshwater ecosystems are being severely damaged by human activities. The major threats to freshwater biodiversity include runoff from agricultural and urban areas, the invasion of exotic species, and the creation of dams and water diversion.  Overexploitation and pollution also threaten groundwater supplies.  These kinds of threats and others have already significantly impacted the biodiversity within these ecosystems.” – US Environmental Protection Agency


Environment Canada – Aquatic Ecosystems
An aquatic ecosystem is a group of interacting organisms dependent on one another and their water environment for nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus) and shelter. Familiar examples are ponds, lakes and rivers, but aquatic ecosystems also include areas such as floodplains and wetlands, which are flooded with water for all or only parts of the year.

IUCN Water & Nature Initiative
A 5-year action plan of 80 partner organizations to improve water management for healthy rivers and healthy communities. Demonstration of good management in ten basins is supported by the development of tools for financing, governance, empowerment, and information.

The Freshwater Society
The Freshwater Society is dedicated to promoting the protection and rational management of all freshwater resources. For over thirty years, the Freshwater Society has been a leading public nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving, restoring, and protecting freshwater resources and their surrounding watersheds. Through its program initiatives in freshwater resource management, groundwater and surface water stewardship activities, public education, conferences and publications, the Freshwater Society has been a catalyst for understanding one of our most important natural resources.

The Nature Conservancy Freshwater Initiative
The Nature Conservancy is providing global leadership in demonstrating how water flows can be managed to meet human needs while sustaining ecosystem health. We work with local stakeholders to help bring their ecosystem-dependent needs and values to the decision tables. We help craft scientific approaches and tools to define the water needs of ecosystems. We work with water managers around the world to protect and restore natural patterns of water flow. We build alliances to push for new water policies that embrace environmental sustainability.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre
This document has been prepared on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). Its purpose is to provide useful information on inland waters and their biodiversity to a wide audience, ranging from those interested in the state of the world environment generally, to those needing an overview of the global and regional context in order to improve planning, management and investment decisions.

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