A review of freshwater gastropod conservation: challenges and opportunities

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North American freshwater gastropods remain an understudied, yet critically imperiled, fauna. As part of a larger discussion on freshwater mollusks in this special issue, we review 4 specific areas of concern regarding freshwater gastropods and discuss how best to address those concerns in the context of conservation. Areas of concern include freshwater gastropod conservation strategies, taxonomy and systematics, ecological research, and conservation challenges. We illustrate how each of these topics relates to conservation efforts and discuss opportunities to improve our baseline knowledge of freshwater gastropod taxonomy, ecology, and conservation. We emphasize throughout that effective conservation strategies require the participation of as many affected and interested groups, from local communities to governmental agencies, as possible for successful implementation and management. We offer suggestions for the direction of cooperative conservation with regard to freshwater gastropods. The freshwater gastropod fauna of the USA and Canada consists of 842 nominal taxa (NatureServe 2007). This fauna is increasingly imperiled by river regulation, habitat loss, poor water quality, reduced water quantity, and invasive species. Estimates suggest that .40% of freshwater snail species are negatively affected by anthropogenic factors (Neves et al. 1997), resulting in many extinctions in North America (Master et al. 2000). More than 60% of the total nominal freshwater snail fauna have global ranks of G1 (critically imperiled), G2 (imperiled), or GH–GX (presumed or possibly extinct; Fig. 1), and recent extinctions support these rankings (Sada and Vinyard 2002, Hershler et al. 2007). Less than ¼ of all North American taxa are thought to be secure (G5) or apparently secure (G4; NatureServe 2007). The US Fish and Wildlife Service lists 23 species of snails as endangered or threatened (Table 1). Our objectives are to summarize what is known about freshwater gastropod conservation needs in North America (Brown et al. 2008, Perez and Minton 2008), highlight critical knowledge gaps that negative-ly affect conservation efforts, and suggest a logical path for future work.


© 2008 by The North American Benthological Society

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Journal of the North American Benthological Society