IUCN event | 13 Feb, 2024

Innovative mechanisms for connectivity conservation along free-flowing river ecosystems

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Photo: © Ulrika Åberg

IUCN provides reference standards for effective management and equitable governance of protected and conserved areas (management categories, governance types, Green List, KBAs). These tools and metrics help to measure impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and by so, can leverage commitments from new partners and help generate innovative financial mechanisms to support long-term conservation efforts. This is particularly relevant for river basins, where natural processes, connectivity and species migration are often impacted by human activities, such as impoundments, abstraction, extraction and pollution.

Free-flowing rivers and their associated features, such as deltas, islands, floodplains and gravel beds are essential habitats for various life stages of migratory species, while at the same time providing livelihoods and being part of the identity of many Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

The side event will showcase an inspiring collaboration between IUCN, the Albanian Government, WCPA, environmental NGOs and the outdoor clothing company Patagonia to protect the Vjosa River in Albania, one of Europe’s last wild free-flowing rivers. The Vjosa Wild River National Park, declared an IUCN Category II protected area in March 2023, aims to maintain longitudinal, lateral, vertical and temporal connectivity along the entire length of the river and its free-flowing tributaries to protect natural processes and migratory species.

The Aoos-Vjosa River System has its sources in the Pindos Mountains in Greece and flows through Greece and Albania to the Adriatic Sea. The vision is to create a transboundary National Park along its full length from source to sea. This provides a potential new blueprint for large-scale conservation of connectivity along free-flowing rivers for migratory species, through an inclusive riverscape approach that benefits both people and nature.

This event seeks to: 

  • Showcase IUCN support for establishing protected areas along free-flowing rivers and innovative mechanisms for connectivity conservation
  • Launch the IUCN-WCPA Aoos Protection study
  • Demonstrate application of the Green List for fair and effective management of connectivity freshwater ecosystems
  • Discuss connectivity conservation and protection of threatened migratory fish species
  • Communicate connectivity conservation and protection of key species through the Vjosa Wild River National Park StoryMap