Freshwater invertebrate conservation faces 5 important challenges. First, ˜10,000 species of freshwater invertebrates around the world may already be extinct or imperiled. Second, human pressures on freshwater resources are intense and will increase in the coming decades, putting yet more species at risk. Third, scientific knowledge about freshwater invertebrates, although substantial and useful for many groups, is far less than for the vertebrates for which much of contemporary conservation biology was designed. Even the best-known freshwater invertebrates that have achieved legal protection are perhaps 1% as well studied as the typical vertebrate. Fourth, because freshwater ecosystems are downhill from and embedded in their watersheds, freshwater conservation usually has to manage entire watersheds rather than small local sites where imperiled species occur. Fifth, society spends only modest amounts of money for freshwater invertebrate conservation. The median expenditure in Fiscal Year 2003 for freshwater invertebrate species on the US Endangered Species List was only US$24,000, and only a small minority of imperiled species is listed and receives even this modest attention. Considering these serious challenges, I believe that we need to think deliberately about the best approaches for conserving freshwater invertebrate biodiversity. The best solution may be to move away from a species-based approach that is largely derived from a terrestrial model towards broader, regional approaches that try to satisfy legitimate human needs for fresh water while preserving as much biodiversity as possible.
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