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Global Analysis of Durable Policies for Free-Flowing River Protections
Article

Safeguarding Free-Flowing Rivers: The Global Extent of Free-Flowing Rivers in Protected Areas

1
World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC 20037, USA
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SymbioSeas, Carolina Beach, NC 28428, USA
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Confluvio, Montreal, QC H2V 4E6, Canada
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The Nature Conservancy, Protect Lands and Waters, Arlington, VA 22203, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Denielle M. Perry
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2805; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052805
Received: 31 January 2021 / Revised: 23 February 2021 / Accepted: 23 February 2021 / Published: 5 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
Approximately one-third of long rivers remain free-flowing, and rivers face a range of ongoing and future threats. In response, there is a heightened call for actions to reverse the freshwater biodiversity crisis, including through formal global targets for protection. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets called for the protection of 17% of inland water areas by 2020. Here, we examine the levels and spatial patterns of protection for a specific type of inland water area—rivers designated as free-flowing. Out of a global total of 11.7 million kilometers of rivers, 1.9 million kilometers (16%) are within protected areas and 10.1 million kilometers are classified as free-flowing, with 1.7 million kilometers of the free-flowing kilometers (17%) within protected areas. Thus, at the global level, the proportion of rivers in protected areas is just below the Aichi Target, and the proportion of free-flowing rivers within protected areas equals that target. However, the extent of protection varies widely across river basins, countries, and continents, and many of these geographic units have a level of protection far lower than the target. Further, high discharge mainstem rivers tend to have lower extent of protection. We conclude by reviewing the limitations of measuring river protection by the proportion of river kilometers within protected areas and describe a range of mechanisms that can provide more effective protection. We also propose a set of recommendations for a more comprehensive quantification of global river protection. View Full-Text
Keywords: free-flowing rivers; freshwater biodiversity conservation; protected areas; river protection free-flowing rivers; freshwater biodiversity conservation; protected areas; river protection
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MDPI and ACS Style

Opperman, J.J.; Shahbol, N.; Maynard, J.; Grill, G.; Higgins, J.; Tracey, D.; Thieme, M. Safeguarding Free-Flowing Rivers: The Global Extent of Free-Flowing Rivers in Protected Areas. Sustainability 2021, 13, 2805. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052805

AMA Style

Opperman JJ, Shahbol N, Maynard J, Grill G, Higgins J, Tracey D, Thieme M. Safeguarding Free-Flowing Rivers: The Global Extent of Free-Flowing Rivers in Protected Areas. Sustainability. 2021; 13(5):2805. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052805

Chicago/Turabian Style

Opperman, Jeffrey J., Natalie Shahbol, Jeffrey Maynard, Günther Grill, Jonathan Higgins, Dieter Tracey, and Michele Thieme. 2021. "Safeguarding Free-Flowing Rivers: The Global Extent of Free-Flowing Rivers in Protected Areas" Sustainability 13, no. 5: 2805. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052805

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