Integrating aquatic biodiversity into conservation planning could yield substantial benefits for freshwater species with minimal cost to terrestrial creatures, according to a study published in Science last month. Conservation areas are often determined based on the needs and distributions of terrestrial species, under the assumption that preserving an area important for the target species will also have benefits for the other species living there, a phenomenon known as “incidental conservation.” To test this assumption, an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Cecília Gontijo Leal at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil examined the costs and benefits to different groups of organisms from prioritizing terrestrial or freshwater biodiversity in conservation planning. They surveyed plants, birds, fish and insects in the municipalities of Paragominas and Santarém in the Amazonian state of Pará, Brazil, to create species distribution maps, and then applied a framework known as zonation conservation planning, which recommends areas for conservation that offer the widest benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Their analysis showed that focusing conservation planning on the needs and distributions of terrestrial species alone tended to do little for freshwater species — offering just 22% of the benefits that could be achieved with freshwater-focused planning. Planning based only on the needs of aquatic species, on the other hand, also benefited plants and animals on land — securing 84% of the benefits achieved with a terrestrial focus. But the biggest benefits can be achieved with an integrated…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer