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Home > Activities > Research > freshwaterBIODIVERSITY > Implementation activities > Assessing and Observing freshwater biodiversity

Assessing and Observing freshwater biodiversity

freshwaterBIODIVERSITY is actively involved in activities related to data compilation on freshwater biodiversity, and to the identification of common actions or strategies where data and expertise could be shared between the several international groups working on this topic. This activity includes three main projects:


BioFresh: The network for global freshwater biodiversity

Scientists and water managers have collected vast amounts of data on freshwater biodiversity. Yet, it is often impossible to know the geographic range of a species with certainty. Why is this? The existing data - collected in diverse studies - are widely dispersed, gathered in locally-managed databases, many of which are not publicly available. In a nutshell, the pieces of the global freshwater biodiversity puzzle are scattered and difficult to find.

BioFresh is an EU-funded international project that integrates the freshwater biodiversity competencies and expertise of 19 research institutions. BioFresh will improve the capacity to protect and manage freshwater biodiversity by:

  • Building an information platform as a gateway for scientific research and ecosystem management on freshwater biodiversity - with databases describing the distribution, status and trends of global freshwater biodiversity;
  • Raising awareness of the importance of freshwater biodiversity and its role in providing ecosystem services;
  • Predicting the future responses of freshwater biodiversity to multiple stressors in the face of global change.

BioFresh launched the first online Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas on 29 Janrray 2014. The online Atlas presents spatial information and species distribution patterns of freshwater biodiversity. It responds to the challenge for policy of how to integrate protection of freshwater life and the ecosystem services it provides with real and pressing demands on freshwater resources from the energy, food and sanitation sectors. If you wish to contribute with maps, please visit this link.


Klement Tockner, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Germany. You may also contact freshwaterbiodiversity@igb-berlin.de


FADA: the Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment

The goal of FADA is to better understand ongoing activities related to data compilation on freshwater biodiversity and to identify common actions or strategies where data and expertise could be shared between the several international groups working on this topic. This will allow to better address research needs and conservation issues in freshwater biodiversity. This activity has joined forces with the EU BioFresh project.

FADA is led by the Belgium Biodiversity Platform.


Koen Martens, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and Hendrik Segers, Belgium Biodiversity Platform

FADA's publications


FADA's workshops and conferences

Symposium at the DIVERSITAS OSC2: Genetic drivers of freshwater biodiversity

13-16 October 2009 - Cape Town, S-Africa


Contact: Koen Martens, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium


  • Isa Schon, Bill Birky Jr, Saskia Bode, Roger K Butlin, Stuart Halse, Koen Martens: Cryptic species in non-marine ostracods
  • Erik Verheyen: Exploration of biodiversity patterns and evolutionary histories of Central African freshwater fish faunas
  • Christian Sturmbauer: New insights on explosive speciation and adaptive radiation from East African cichlid fishes
  • Elie Verleyen, Luc De Meester, Koen Martens, Katleen Van Der Gucht, Wim Vyverman: Patterns in microbial diversity and community structure at multiple spatial scales
  • Cyprian Katongo: Evolutionary Biology of Freshwater Fishes of Africa
  • Ricardo L Pinto, Koen Martens, Isa Schön: Genetic diversity in ancient asexual ostracods


Workshop: Cooperative Strategies for current international initiatives on freshwater biodiversity
26-28 April 2007 - Elewijt, Belgium

The workshop was organised by the Belgium Biodiversity Platform and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and sponsored by the Global Water System Project (GWSP) and the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo). The goal of the meeting was to finalise a common view for the consortium and to define a strategy to build a synthetic knowledge platform/webportal on Freshwater Biodiversity.

Read the report.

Contact: Estelle Balian , Belgium Biodiversity Platform


Workshop: Cooperative Strategies for current international initiatives on freshwater biodiversity: Exploring the willingness and feasibility of sharing information and expertise on global freshwater biodiversity
08-09 December 2006 - Brussels, Belgium
Several international groups are currently carrying out studies and data compilation on freshwater biodiversity. There is a need to better know their ongoing activities and to identify common actions or strategies where data and expertise can be shared. The purpose of the sharing would be to better address research needs and conservation issues in freshwater biodiversity. Additionally, a similar collaborative effort is currently being undertaken by hydrological/physical organisations and data providers leading, for example, to the development of a global database on dams and river discharge regimes.
The objectives of the workshop were to investigate strategies for collaboration and to initiate an active network for sharing information and developing synergies amongst organisations. Expected are 20-25 participants, representatives of international organisations involved in freshwater biodiversity research and conservation.

Read the report.

Contact: Estelle Balian , Belgium Biodiversity Platform


GEO BON working group on freshwater ecosystems

GEO BON, which stands for “Group of Earth Observations - Biodiversity Observation Network”, represents the biodiversity component of GEOSS, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. The vision of GEO BON is for a global biodiversity observation system, that is, a coordinated, global network that gathers and shares information on biodiversity and ecosystem services, provides tools for data integration and analysis, and contributes to improving environmental management and human well-being. To advance the implementation of specific topics, the GEO BON Steering Committee has established eight working groups, one of them being dedicated to freshwater ecosystem monitoring (WG4).

The goal of this working group is to develop and implement a monitoring system for freshwater ecosystems. Observing relationships between biophysical features of freshwater ecosystems (e.g., hydrology, diversity and conservation status of species, dynamics of populations) and examining the provision of ecosystem services by freshwaters makes it possible to make global comparisons of systems and to study how they change in response to management, regulation and use.


Project's participants

  • Coordinators: Ian Harrison, IUCN, and Eren Turak, DECCW, Australia
  • Robin Abell, World Wide Fund For Nature, USA
  • Lu Cai, Beijing University of Forestry, China
  • David Dudgeon, Hong Kong University, China
  • Jonathan Higgins, The Nature Conservancy, USA
  • Aventino Kasangaki, Mbarara University, Uganda
  • Peter McIntyre, Michigan University, USA
  • Sebastien Miazza, Switzerland
  • Shin-Ichi Nakano, Kyoto University, Japan
  • Jeanne Nel, CSIR, South Africa
  • Carmen Revenga, The Nature Conservancy, USA
  • Klement Tockner, Berlin University, Germany
  • Nicholas Tubbs, Wetlands International, UK

Project's workshops and conferences

Symposium at the World Water Week: Monitoring Freshwater Ecosystem Change - a component of the 'Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network' (GEO BON)

5-11 September 2010 - Stockholm, Sweden

Sponsors : Conservation International (CI), International Union for the Conservation of Nature-Species Programme (IUCN), DIVERSITAS freshwaterBIODIVERSITY project, Global Water System Project (GWSP), City University of New York Environmental Cross-Roads Initiative, Kings College London, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

2010 was the International Year of Biodiveristy, calling to action the recognition of biodiveristy values for their own sake, and for their role in maintaining ecosystem function and providing services for people such as water provision, filtration and removal of wastes, and climate regulation. In spite of its critical importance, we are failing to sufficiently protect and value our biodiversity and ecosystems. Fortunately, advances in science and tools, as well as supporting policies, offer us opportunities to correct past failings.

This session emphasised ways in which increasing the availability of scientific data and tools can enhance appreciation of ecosystem services, identify threats and tipping points, guide prioritisation for conservation, and further human welfare and poverty alleviation through better informed policy-making. Using real-world case studies, including those with a heavy emphasis on water quality, presentations will illustrate the intimate relationship between protecting clean freshwater for human use and conserving freshwater biodiversity. We will discuss policy mechanisms that provide incentives for protection of water resources, and are compatible with conservation aims. Discussions will also focus upon the integration of sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems into national, regional and international policies and development, bridging the gap between scientists and policy-makers.

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