Extinction risk of the world's freshwater mammals

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The continued loss of freshwater habitats poses a significant threat to global biodiversity. We reviewed the extinction risk of 166 freshwater aquatic and semiaquatic mammals—a group rarely documented as a collective. We used the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species categories as of December 2021 to determine extinction risk. Extinction risk was then compared among taxonomic groups, geographic areas, and biological traits. Thirty percent of all freshwater mammals were listed as threatened. Decreasing population trends were common (44.0%), including a greater rate of decline (3.6% in 20 years) than for mammals or freshwater species as a whole. Aquatic freshwater mammals were at a greater risk of extinction than semiaquatic freshwater mammals (95% CI –7.20 to –1.11). Twenty-nine species were data deficient or not evaluated. Large species (95% CI 0.01 to 0.03) with large dispersal distances (95% CI 0.03 to 0.15) had a higher risk of extinction than small species with small dispersal distances. The number of threatening processes associated with a species compounded their risk of extinction (95% CI 0.28 to 0.77). Hunting, land clearing for logging and agriculture, pollution, residential development, and habitat modification or destruction from dams and water management posed the greatest threats to these species. The basic life-history traits of many species were poorly known, highlighting the need for more research. Conservation of freshwater mammals requires a host of management actions centered around increased protection of riparian areas and more conscientious water management to aid the recovery of threatened species.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14168
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Early online dateAug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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