The diversity of life in African freshwaters: Underwater, under threat

An anlaysis of the status and distribution of freshwater species throughout mainland Africa


edited by William Darwall, Kevin Smith, David Allen, Robert Holland, Ian Harrison and Emma Brooks

Shelfmark: AF/AA/248d

An IUCN Red List produced in 2011 of the faunal and floral biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems across the whole of Africa. It is clearly laid out and well illustrated with plentiful photographs and large maps.

A PDF of this report is available online. Read more about the Pan-Africa freshwater biodiversity assessment by visiting the project website. Also, to find out more about the work of the IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit visit their website.

From the Foreword

For millions of people throughout Africa, wetlands are critical for livelihoods, providing vital supplies of water, food and materials as well as ecological services. Wetlands are, however, suffering from high levels of degradation, and this is likely to increase dramatically over the next few decades as Africa strives to provide food, water and electricity to an increasing population.

In the most comprehensive assessment of its kind, 4,989 African freshwater species were assessed by close to 200 scientists over a six year period for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, including all described species of freshwater fish, molluscs, crabs, dragonflies and damselflies, and selected families of aquatic plants.  The findings from this new study give us a unique opportunity to try to influence developers and governments when they are planning freshwater infrastructure projects, which are still in their early stages in most of Africa. Until now we have not had the information we need about species and the threats they face, but, armed with these IUCN Red List assessments, the extensive information upon which they are based, and the overall findings and recommendations, we hope that decision-makers in Africa will now make the right choices to develop their water resources in a sustainable manner whilst protecting and valuing biodiversity.


Chapter 1 – Background

Chapter 2 – Assessment methodology

Chapter 3 – Fish

Chapter 4 – Freshwater molluscs of Africa: diversity, distribution, and conservation

Chapter 5 – Dragonflies and damselflies of Africa (Odonata): history, diversity, distribution and conservation

Chapter 6 – Freshwater crabs of Africa: diversity, distribution, and conservation

Chapter 7 – Aquatic plants of Africa: diversity, distribution and conservation

Chapter 8 – Synthesis for all taxa

Chapter 9 – Conservation of freshwater ecosystems

Chapter 10 – Development and policy plans for the future

Data DVD

Download the report

Executive summary

Download species distribution
GIS shapefiles

Download species lists



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