Freshwater ecosystems encompass all inland water bodies, in which riverine and nonriverine freshwaters are linked through hydrological connectivity within a catchment. However, riverine and nonriverine freshwaters have often been assessed separately and their interdependence and connection has not been considered appropriately in prevailing freshwater conservation planning. To address the representation and persistence of freshwater ecosystems in conservation assessment, we integrated riverine and nonriverine freshwater wetlands as broad-scale conservation surrogates and incorporated longitudinal, lateral and vertical connectivity rules in a conservation planning for the freshwater wetlands in the North China Plain (NCP). We also considered interbasin connectivity by incorporating conservation features of key transferring nodes of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project (SNWD) in the NCP to safeguard their unique ecosystem services of regulating interbasin freshwater. Three scenarios (i.e., 2D, 3D and interbasin scenario) were developed by incorporating different multiple conservation targets, and their spatial priorities and cost-efficiency in freshwater conservation were compared. We applied systematic conservation framework and modified Marxan to accommodate these multidirectional and interbasin connectivity targets in our freshwater conservation assessment. The results indicated that the existing conservation system covered approximately 20% of the freshwater wetlands in the NCP, and there were still considerable conservation gaps that need to be filled. The optimal scenarios could substantially improve the representation, complementarity and persistence for the conservation of freshwater ecosystems, but would not significantly increased overall costs. The framework developed by our research has the potential to facilitate further application of systematic methods in freshwater conservation and rehabilitation planning at multiple scales.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Dec 15, 2017
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