Since its inception, NatureServe and the natural heritage network have recognized the critical need for better documentation and reporting on the status, trends, and conservation needs of aquatic biodiversity.
The landmark publication Rivers of Life (Masters et al. 1998) demonstrated both the global importance of U.S. freshwater biodiversity and endemism and the high level of imperilment facing these species. Rivers of Life played a major role in raising awareness about the pressing need for freshwater conservation, resulting in an increased prominence of at-risk freshwater fish and mussels in state Wildlife Action Plans and an increase in awareness of at-risk species overall.
Today, new stressors such as climate change combine with historical threats such as dams, river channeling, loss of riparian vegetation, and contaminants to present even greater challenges to preserving freshwater species. At the same time, dedicated public and private conservation measures, including dam removal, restoration of river flow regimes, riparian corridor protection, and efforts to reduce pollutants, have improved conditions in targeted areas.
NatureServe continues to work closely with the Network Programs and other key partners to build on Rivers of Life by developing the data products and analyses needed to support informed conservation action.