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Tag: freshwater


Can you help the Freshwater Bioblitz?

February 3rd, 2014 — 1:49pm
Acantopsis dialuzona, Terengganu state, Peninsular Malaysia. © Matt Ford

Acantopsis dialuzona, Terengganu state, Peninsular Malaysia. © Matt Ford

The ‘Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz’ kicked off on World Wetlands Day to engage nature lovers in freshwater fish conservation.

The Freshwater Fish Specialist Group (FFSG), of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Wetlands International (IUCN), has joined forces with other international groups, chiefly the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, FishBase, the Fisheries Society of the British Isles and the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, to introduce this new global initiative. The BioBlitz project is designed by iNaturalist.org and hosted on the FFSG website www.iucnffsg.org/bioblitz.

People from around the world, whether anglers, photographers, students or nature lovers, are invited to upload photographs of freshwater fishes observed in their natural habitat, with details of where and when they saw them.  Volunteers with expertise in fish taxonomy will serve as curators to identify and verify the species to ensure the data is research-grade.  The information has the potential to assist scientists to describe new species, help assess the risk of extinction for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, can track the spread of invasive species and can be exported to freely accessible online data archives, such as Encyclopedia of Life.

Phoxinus phoxinus, UK. © Jack Perks

Phoxinus phoxinus, UK. © Jack Perks

The launch of the project also highlights the importance of freshwater fish for the protection of internationally important habitats. “More than three-quarters of Ramsar’s Wetlands of International Importance, or Ramsar Sites, are entirely or partly freshwater sites, and, of those, over 30 percent became Ramsar Sites because of their important fish species” said Christopher Briggs, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “The more data we have on the species present in our wetlands, the better we can manage them. The Freshwater Fish BioBlitz will provide a wealth of essential information for managing our wetlands and their fish species.”

Projects like this are needed as Will Turner, Senior Vice President for the Moore Center for Science and Oceans at Conservation International, explains “Freshwater fishes may be the most endangered group of vertebrates, with a third of all species threatened with extinction due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation, alien invasive species and climate change.”

Lentipes sp. in the Philippines. © Odyssey

Lentipes sp. in the Philippines. © Odyssey

“The BioBlitz is our way of bringing the power of crowdsourcing to freshwater fish conservation,” said Michele Thieme, senior freshwater conservation scientist at World Wildlife Fund. “Wildlife monitoring is vital to conservation, since we can’t protect species unless we know where they live and what threats they might be facing. Engaging the public all over the world will help us identify more species in more places than we possibly could alone.”

“It is a huge task – with over 15,000 freshwater fish species, and numbers continually growing,” said Dr Richard Sneider, Global Chair for the FFSG. “More than 300 new fish species are described every year on average, so the more people ‘on the ground’ carrying out observations and recording what they have seen, the better.”

The Global Freshwater Fish Bioblitz is inspired by a similar project for amphibians, which the Amphibian Specialist Group began more than two years ago. “We’re hoping to mimic the success of the Global Amphibian BioBlitz, which has been embraced by citizen-scientists throughout the world,” said Sneider. “In only two years they’ve recorded more than 1,500 taxa and even discovered a new species. I’d say that’s a pretty good start.”

FFSG logo art small

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FFSG has global mission

November 13th, 2013 — 1:04pm

FFSG logo art

Considering that freshwater habitats contain just 0.3 % of global water resources they are home to a surprising diversity of species with around 15,000 described to date, a figure which represents almost half of all known fish taxa and approximately 25 % of all vertebrates.

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Doing Things Their Way

June 17th, 2013 — 7:43pm

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

The Aquarium of Brussels is a hidden gem in the Belgian capital…

In contrast to our usual waffle this experiment blog post is going to be heavy on photos and low on word count, so let’s see how it goes.

While visiting Belgium a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend an enjoyable few hours at the wonderfully impressive Aquarium of Brussels.

It’s possibly the cleanest such set up I’ve ever seen, and puts many zoos and larger ‘chain’-style public aquaria to shame.

Cooler still, the vast majority of installations are dedicated to freshwater fish and amphibians with a number of rare and endangered species among them.

They also have an off-public area which is equally as spotless as the main displays and lots more endangered fish are being bred and raised there.

A few pics should help illustrate what I’m talking about…

Ptychochromis oligacanthus from Madagascar:

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Bedotia sp. ‘Namorona’ is an undescribed (and huge!) species restricted to parts of the Namorona River, also in Madagascar. The zoo are having trouble breeding these so any tips would be much appreciated.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Malagasy display with Bedotia sp. ‘Namorona’, the killifish Pachypanchax sakaramyi and Ptychochromis oligacanthus.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Fundulopanchax display – great to see killis getting some attention.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Iberian ribbed newt, Pleurodeles waltl. These are being bred in quite large numbers behind the scenes…

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

…speaking of which. Here’s one of the ‘backstage’ area tanks with the goodeid Ilyodon furcidens.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Goodeids, newts and poison frogs, all breeding at the aquarium.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

More Ptychochromis oligacanthus. The tank itself is interesting as like all of those at the aquarium it’s made of a type of marine wood with a glass front panel.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Young cichlids growing on.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Quarantine for future display fish.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Breeding and raising tanks for endangered species containing the Corfu killifishValencia letourneuxi, various cichlids, Melanotaenia spp., goodeids, etc.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

This area must require as much upkeep as the display area to maintain these standards and the whole set-up is a massive credit to the managers and staff.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Back in the main aquarium, this display contained endangered goodeids.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Finally, a lovely little paludarium housing a breeding population of the Oriental fire-bellied toad, Bombina orientalis plus some White Cloud Mountain minnows in the water.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Aside from the standard of husbandry and attention to detail on display there were other things to admire here.

For example, this is a relatively small, low budget project funded by the Belgian National Lottery, yet is Brussels’ only public aquarium and on a Saturday afternoon was busy with a number of larger kids’ groups inside.

The aquarium offer audio tours in several languages which offer information about the various animals on display including the reasons why they are being maintained in the case of endangered species, while kids are able to undertake a series of activities on the way round.

Some of these involve ticking off the species on display, or even drawing them, and it was the first time I’d heard young children talking excitedly about goodeids in a public aquarium, for example.

Since the majority of such aquaria in the world tend to feature an identical series of displays (coral reef, clown fish, ray touch pool, shark tunnel, piranhas, Amazon display, rinse, repeat) this modest yet inspiring place is well worth a visit.

It was brilliant to see a focus on freshwater rather than marine species given that the ongoing environmental crisis affecting their habitats around the planet continues to be largely ignored by conservation groups and mainstream media alike.

Matt Ford

Aquarium of Brussels home page: http://www.aquariologie.be/

Category: Articles, Conservation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 comments »

What can be done to protect freshwater biodiversity?

May 30th, 2013 — 7:55pm

© Rune Evjeberg

Maintaining what remains of freshwater biodiversity is set to become one of the planet’s biggest challenges in the coming decades with up to 50 % of global wetlands already lost in the last century and habitat degradation continuing at an alarming rate. Continue reading »

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