Africa: Freshwater species under threat


A massive 21 per cent of freshwater species of animals and plants in continental Africa are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of millions of people at risk, a comprehensive new study for IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species has discovered.

plant growing in water in africa

The Endangered aquatic Oxalis dines is only found in seasonal pools and pans in clay in Western Cape (South Africa), where its habitat is threatened by heavy grazing and trampling of local livestock. © Nick Helme / IUCN

In the most comprehensive assessment of its kind, 5,167 African freshwater species were evaluated by 200 scientists over a five-year period for the Red List, including all known freshwater fish, molluscs, crabs, dragonflies and damselflies, and some families of aquatic plants. The study found the biggest threats to African freshwater species come from agriculture, water abstraction, dams and invasive alien species.

plant growing in water in africa

Cadiscus aquaticus, a critically endangered daisy. Found in vernal pools in South Africa's Western Cape it's threatened by livestock grazing and trampling, wetland changes, and machinery damage.

© Nick Helme / IUCN

“Africa is home to an astonishingly diverse range of freshwater species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth,” says William Darwall, leader of the project and Manager of IUCN’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit. “If we don’t stem the loss of these species, not only will the richness of Africa’s biodiversity be reduced forever, but millions of people will lose a key source of income, food and materials.”

View photos of some of the threatened species in this IUCN Flickr gallery

Related links:

Download factsheets for Africa's regions from IUCN

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