Multispecies and Watershed Conservation: Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness for Native Fish Conservation
Jack E. Williams
Abstract.—Traditional approaches to fish conservation have focused on the protection of small habitat patches or on individual species at risk of extinction. These strategies have been important yet largely have been too little and too late for widespread protection of aquatic faunas. Such small-scale and reactive approaches also are costly in terms of recovery programs and aggressive in terms of regulatory controls. Further, the linear nature of streams and the networked configuration of drainage systems suggest that a fundamentally different approach to reserve design and protected areas is necessary for effective conservation of freshwater communities when compared to terrestrial systems. Larger-scale, multispecies approaches to native fish conservation offer a more efficient and effective conservation strategy because entire fish communities and the ecological processes that support maintenance of habitat diversity can be sustained before the status of individual species deteriorates to critical levels. Protecting entire communities and watersheds also offers some resistance to climate change impacts, which rapidly are altering flow regimes and disturbance dynamics in aquatic systems. Identification and protection of high-value aquatic communities will provide an important supplement to current conservation strategies during times of increasing threats and future uncertainty.