ALEXANDRIA, VA—September 30, 2010. IWR recently published "The Sustainability of Freshwater Species and Water Resources Development Policy of the Corps of Engineers," prepared by Richard A. Cole. This report addresses past and projected future rates of freshwater species extinction, comparisons of the freshwater species extinction rate with terrestrial and rainforest extinction rates, and potential species restoration opportunities for the Corps. The study determined that the Corps is not among the primary causes of freshwater biodiversity loss, but that it is likely that Corps projects contributed to past extinctions prior to the environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s. The report states that the Corps now has a significant opportunity to apply its ecosystem restoration authority to reduce the decline of freshwater biodiversity in the United States.
The study found that freshwater extinction rates exceed terrestrial extinction rates. Mollusks, amphibians and crayfish were cited as some of the groups at the highest risk of extinction. The report notes that invasive species and agricultural and urban development pose the most severe threats, but water resources management may be an effective way to address species protection and recovery because of project manageability. The study concluded that the Corps can improve its species protection and recovery activities by collaborating with partners, integrating systems approaches to resource management, and promoting habitat restoration at "hot spots" of species vulnerability.