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Individual Highlight

Global Conservation Status of Freshwater Crayfish

Photo of Male Procambarus barbiger, a burrowing crayfish endemic to Mississippi. Chris Lukhaup, Crusta10Male Procambarus barbiger, a burrowing crayfish endemic to Mississippi. Chris Lukhaup, Crusta10Snapshot : The southeastern U.S. is a major hotspot of freshwater crayfish diversity, says a new global assessment of crayfish conservation status. The report also finds that a fifth of North American crayfish species (and almost a third of the world's species) are threatened with extinction. The study found that in the U.S., only two percent of threatened species occur in protected areas, which further highlights the imperiled status of freshwater species in the U.S.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Adams, Susan B. 
Research Location : Global
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 926


The global assessment highlights a major hotspot of freshwater crayfish diversity in the southeastern U.S., notably Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, where 53 percent of U.S. species (189 of 357) can be found in a single state. Globally, the greatest number of species for which biologists have insufficient data to assess conservation status are also in southern U.S., especially in the Gulf Coastal Plain and southern Appalachians. This means there may be many more threatened species from this area than scientists know about; this is especially true for crayfish species that burrow.

A Forest Service scientist from the Southern Research Station’s Center for Bottomland Hardwoods collaborated with experts from around the world to assess crayfish conservation status and write the report, which finds that threat levels for crayfish are much higher than those for most land and marine animal groups. The most common threats facing U.S. species result from pollution, urban development, damming in water management, and logging. The study notes that despite growing evidence for a freshwater biodiversity crisis, freshwater species, particularly invertebrates such as crayfish, are underrepresented on endangered species lists and in management plans for biodiversity. Only 1 percent of U.S. freshwater crayfish species, for example, are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, compared to 20 percent of mammals.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Alastair M. M. Richardson
  • Arnold G. Eversole
  • Carlos Pedraza-Lara
  • Catherine Souty-Grosset
  • Christopher A. Taylor
  • Clive M. Jones
  • David M. Holdich
  • Elizabeth A. Bergey John J. S. Bunn
  • Fernando Alvarez
  • Francesca Gherardi
  • Guenter A. Schuster
  • James M. Furse
  • Jason Coughran
  • Jay Cordeiro
  • Jerry Walls
  • Julia P. G. Jones
  • Julian D. Reynolds
  • Kathryn L. Dawkins
  • Keith A. Crandall
  • Kerrylyn Johnston
  • Lennart Edsman
  • Leopold Füreder
  • Marilu López-Mejía
  • Mark B. Schultz
  • Monika Böhm
  • Nadia I. Richman, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London
  • Niall E. Doran
  • Peter J. Sibley
  • Pierre Horwitz
  • Premek Hamr
  • Quinton Burnham
  • Rebecca M. Miller
  • Robert J. DiStefano
  • Robert L. Jones
  • Roger F. Thoma
  • Susan Lawler
  • Tadashi Kawai
  • Thomas G. Jones
  • Todd S. Walsh
  • and Ben Collen

Program Areas