Learning from past crises to protect future biodiversity
The EU funded PRIDE project is investigating drivers of biotic turnover (the rate at which organisms die) in lakes in the Black Sea / Caspian Sea (Pontocaspian) region to understand the nature and severity of the current biodiversity crisis. Increased understanding will help the project team design conservation strategies to mitigate biodiversity loss.
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The Pontocaspian region contains a number of basins and ancient saline lakes (Black Sea Basin, Marmara Sea Basin and satellite lakes). Unique fauna have evolved in the area, and adapted to both the lakes’ unusual salinities and isolated settings.
Unfortunately, since the 1930s, these unique species have faced a biodiversity crisis. Habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species and pollution have all taken their toll. resulted in strong impoverishment of . The Pontocaspian biodiversity crisis has however received little attention.
The Pontocaspian region is an excellent model to study drivers of biodiversity change as it combines isolated as well as connective settings, and is home to excellent fossils indicating past environmental and biodiversity change. However, to understand the current situation of species in the Pontocaspian region and predict their future development, scientists need a better understanding of the long-term drivers of changes to the lake system.
The EU-funded project PRIDE is investigating the evolution and demise of aquatic diversity in the region. For example, some 80-plus Pontocaspian species have been almost entirely replaced by just a handful of invasive ones in the Caspian Sea alone.
The project website provides an identification sheet for Pontocaspian mollusc fauna in Black Sea coastal regions with instructions concerning identification; documentation and sharing observations with the project team. The molluscs can provide information about environmental conditions, including salinity, water movement, and pollution levels.
After reconstructing the species’ biological resilience to environmental change, PRIDE will model future diversity shifts under various climate scenarios. The consortium expects this to result in concrete, implementable mitigating actions against the future degradation of biodiversity.
PRIDE’s findings may mitigate ongoing biodiversity loss in the Pontocaspian region but will also provide insights into how to support global efforts to combine biodiversity protection; environmental protection and climate change mitigation.