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Conservation of Freshwater Crayfish

Procambarus lagniappe
Procambarus lagniappe

Freshwater crayfish (aka crawfish or crawdads) occur on all continents except Antarctica, although in Africa they are native only to Madagascar. The southeastern US and Australia are the global centers of crayfish diversity. Biologists recognized that, like many groups of aquatic species, crayfish were facing increasing extinction risks. However, the global status of the group had never been assessed. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), led by scientists with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), undertook an effort to change that. They assembled a group of 76 experts to apply the IUCN Red List criteria to the conservation assessment of all 590 of the world's freshwater crayfish. The group then analyzed threats to crayfish on a global scale.

Results indicated that about one-third of all crayfish species and 20 percent of North American species, are threatened with extinction, see here . Furthermore, in the US, the vast majority of the species facing extinction occurred outside of protected areas. The analysis also showed that the dominant threats to crayfish varied by continent, with the main threats in North America being pollution, urban development, damming/water management, and logging. In contrast, disease and climate change were more important on other continents. Finally the assessment highlighted that many crayfish species could not be assessed because of a lack of data and the legal protections for at-risk crayfish species lag behind those for other groups, such as mammals and birds.

The global assessment assists with the FS R&D mission to provide managers and decision-makers with the tools and knowledge to help protect, enhance, and restore wildlife habitats and minimize the effects of disturbances. U.S. Forest Service aquatic ecologist Susie Adams was an integral part of the global assessment. The project initially used information Adams had compiled for about 63 species in Mississippi. She then participated in a workshop with other astacologists (crayfish researchers) from the U.S. and Mexico to conduct status reviews of all North American species. Adams wrote or coauthored IUCN Red List status reviews for 47 species as well as co-authoring the review paper.

CONTACT: Susan Adams

Key Publications

Multiple drivers of decline in the global status of freshwater crayfish (Decapoda:Astacidea) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 370: 20140060