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Threats to Freshwater Biodiversity and Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

Rural Poverty

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Spatial correlations between rural poverty and freshwater biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa identify high priority conservation areas where both species and dependant rural livelihoods are threatened.


International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Cambridge, UK) (link)

see also:
Darwall, W.R.T., Holland, R.A., Smith, K.G., Allen, D., Brooks, E.G.E., Katarya, V., Pollock, C.M., Shi, Y., Clausnitzer, V., Cumberlidge, N., Cuttelod, A., Dijikstra, K-D.B., Diop, M.D., Garcia, N., Seddon, M.B., Skelton, P.H., Snoeks, J., Tweddle, D. & Vie, J-C. (2011). Implications of bias in conservation research and investment for freshwater species. Conservation Letters 4: 474-482 (link).

(reproduced with kind permission from the Journal Conservation Letters)


with support provided by: EuropeAid and BioFresh project




William Darwall email


William Darwall 
Head - Freshwater Biodiversity Unit 
IUCN Species Programme 
219c Huntingdon Road 
Cambridge CB3 0DL, United Kingdom

Related Publications

  • Darwall, W.R.T., Smith, K.G., Allen, D.J. et al., editors. (2012). The diversity of life in African freshwaters: under water, under threat. An analysis of the status and distribution of freshwater species throughout mainland Africa. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  • Dugan, P., Delaporte, A., Andrew, N., O'Keefe, M. & Welcomme, R. (2010). Blue harvest: inland fisheries as an ecosystem service. WorldFish Center, Penang, Malaysia.
  • Neiland, A.E. & Bene, C. (2008). Tropical river fisheries valuation: background papers to a global synthesis. The WorldFish Center, Penang, Malaysia.
  • Rebelo, L., McCartney, M. & Finlayson, C. (2009). Wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa: distribution and contribution of agriculture to livelihoods. Wetlands Ecology and Management 18: 557–572.
  • Vörösmarty, C.J., McIntyre, P.B., Gessner, M.O. et al. (2010). Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature 467: 551–561.

base layer references

  • River catchments are delineated according to a modified version of the HYDRO1K Elevation Derivative Database that derives catchment boundaries based on a 30 arc-second digital elevation mode. Source:
  • The GIS layer depicting rural poverty, representing infant mortality rates in the year 2000, was obtained from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) using raster data at a 0.25-degree resolution from the Centre for International Earth Science Information Network.
  • The GIS layers for species richness and threatened species richness of freshwater species in Sub-Saharan Africa were based on data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, as mapped to Hydro1K level. Source:


This work was made possible through the financial assistance of the European Union under projects EuropeAid/ENV/2004–81917, and "Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Trends, Pressures and Conservation Priorities (BioFresh)". The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union. We thank Jippe Hoogeveen (UN FAO) for supplying the rural poverty data. We would also like to thank the many individuals who conducted the work of compiling the species information data set. The designation of geographical entities in this map, and the presentation of the material, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of IUCN or other participating organizations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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