Rivers of Life
(Critical Watersheds for Protecting Freshwater Diversity)
by Stephanie Flack
Freshwater species and habitats provide a wealth of goods and services to humanity. Nearly a billion people worldwide rely on fishes as their primary source of protein. In 1990, the total global harvest of freshwater fish was valued at $8.2 billion; the value of the U.S. freshwater sport fishery in 1991 was nearly twice that, with direct expenditures totaling approximately $16 billion. And these figures do not reflect the immense worth of ecological services provided by freshwater systems, such as flood control.
Rivers of Life Protecting and restoring priority watersheds will take creativity, commitment, and the involvement of local communities. The returns from such efforts will benefit not only the rich diversity of fishes and other aquatic life but the human communities themselves. The art and science of aquatic conservation are exemplified by work under way in eight of these critical watersheds. Ranging from the meandering Altamaha in Georgia to the upper Verde River of Arizona, these watersheds, which are profiled in Rivers of Life, reflect the importance of local action and community-level partnerships in saving freshwater species and ecosystems.