Skip to main content Accessibility help

Do terrestrial protected areas conserve freshwater fish diversity? Results from the Western Ghats of India

  • Robin Kurian Abraham (a1) and Nachiket Kelkar (a1)


Terrestrial protected areas are often designated in inaccessible high elevation regions, and usually targeted towards conservation of charismatic large mammals and birds. It has been suggested that such protected areas, with partial coverage of riverine habitats, may not be adequate for conservation of freshwater taxa such as fishes. Also, protected areas are often designated in upstream catchments of dam reservoirs, and conservation of freshwater biodiversity is usually not a priority. We investigated the importance of existing protected areas for conservation of stream fishes within and across three dammed and two undammed rivers in the southern Western Ghats, India (a global biodiversity hotspot). Comparisons of stream sites in protected and unprotected areas were restricted to mid elevations because of confounding factors of dams, elevation and stream order. For dammed rivers, endemic and total species richness was significantly higher inside protected areas than unprotected areas. Total fish species richness increased with decreasing elevation and endemic species richness peaked at mid elevations. Species found in comparable stream orders across dammed and undammed midland river reaches were similar. Intensity of threats such as sand mining, dynamite fishing, pollution and introduced invasive fishes was higher in unprotected than in protected areas. Lack of awareness among managers has also led to the occurrence of some threats within protected areas. However, existing protected areas are vital for conservation of endemic fishes. Our results support the need for extending the scope of terrestrial protected areas towards better representation of freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Do terrestrial protected areas conserve freshwater fish diversity? Results from the Western Ghats of India
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Do terrestrial protected areas conserve freshwater fish diversity? Results from the Western Ghats of India
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Do terrestrial protected areas conserve freshwater fish diversity? Results from the Western Ghats of India
      Available formats


Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail


Hide All
Abell, R., Allan, J.D. & Lehner, B. (2007) Unlocking the potential of protected areas for freshwaters. Biological Conservation, 134, 4863.
Abellan, P., Sanchez-Fernandez, D., Velasco, J. & Millan, A. (2007) Effectiveness of protected area networks in representing freshwater biodiversity: the case of a Mediterranean river basin (south-eastern Spain). Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 17, 361374.
Abraham, R.K., Kelkar, N. & Bijukumar, A. (2011) Freshwater fish fauna of the Ashambu Hills landscape, southern Western Ghats, India, with notes on some range extensions. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 3, 15851593.
Allan, J.D. & Flecker, A.S. (1993) Biodiversity conservation in running waters. BioScience, 43, 3243.
Andam, K.S., Ferraro, P.J., Pfaff, A., Sanchez-Azofeifa, G.A. & Robalino, J.A. (2008) Measuring the effectiveness of protected area networks in reducing deforestation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105, 1608916094.
Anon. (2011) No Plan to Release Exotic Fish Varieties into Reservoirs. The Hindu, India. Http:// [accessed 12 March 2012].
Atkore, V.M., Sivakumar, K. & Johnsingh, A.J.T. (2011) Patterns of diversity and conservation status of freshwater fishes in the tributaries of the river Ramganga in the Shiwaliks of the western Himalayas. Current Science, 100, 731736.
Basak, P., James, E.J. & Nandeshwar, M.D. (1995) Water Atlas of Kerala. Central Water Resources Development and Management Institute, Calicut, India.
Becker, A., Korner, C., Brun, J., Guisan, J. & Tappeiner, U. (2007) Ecological and land use studies along elevational gradients. Mountain Research and Development, 27, 5865.
Bergl, R.A., Oates, J.F. & Fotso, R. (2007) Distribution and protected area coverage of endemic taxa in West Africa's Biafran forests and highlands. Biological Conservation, 134, 195208.
Boulinier, T., Nichols, J.D., Sauer, J.R., Hines, J.E. & Pollock, K.H. (1998) Estimating species richness: the importance of heterogeneity in species detectability. Ecology, 79, 10181028.
Burnham, K.P. & Overton, W.S. (1978) Estimation of the size of a closed population when capture probabilities vary among animals. Biometrika, 65, 625633.
Chape, S., Harrison, J., Spalding, M. & Lysenko, I. (2005) Measuring the extent and effectiveness of protected areas as an indicator for meeting global biodiversity targets. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 360, 443455.
Collares-Pereira, M.J. & Cowx, I.G. (2004) The role of catchment scale environmental management in freshwater fish conservation. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 11, 303312.
Collen, B., McRae, L., Kothari, G., Mellor, R., Daniel, O., Greenwood, A. et al. (2008) Living Planet Index. In 2010 and Beyond: Rising to the Biodiversity Challenge (ed. Loh, J.). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.
Cowx, I.G. (2002) Analysis of threats to freshwater fish conservation: past and present challenges. In Conservation of Freshwater Fishes: Options for the Future (eds M.C., Pereira, I.G., Cowx & M., Coelho), pp. 201220. Fishing News Books, Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.
Dahanukar, N., Raghavan, R., Ali, A., Abraham, R. & Shaji, C.P. (2011) The status and distribution of freshwater fishes of the Western Ghats. In The Status and Distribution of Freshwater Biodiversity in the Western Ghats (Compilers Molur, S., Smith, K.G., Daniel, B.A. & Darwall, W.R.T.), pp. 2148. IUCN, Cambridge, UK, and Gland, Switzerland, and Zoo Outreach Organisation, Coimbatore, India.
Dahanukar, N., Raut, R. & Bhat, A. (2004) Distribution, endemism and threat status of freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats of India. Journal of Biogeography, 31, 123136.
Daniels, R.J.R. (2011) Miss Kerala in peril. Current Science, 101, 15181519.
Das, A., Krishnaswamy, J., Bawa, K.S., Kiran, M.C., Srinivas, V., Kumar, N.S. & Karanth, K.U. (2006) Prioritization of conservation areas in the Western Ghats, India. Biological Conservation, 133, 1631.
Devictor, V., Godet, L., Julliard, R., Couvet, D. & Jiguet, F. (2007) Can common species benefit from protected areas? Biological Conservation, 139, 2936.
Dudgeon, D., Arthington, A.H., Gessner, M.O., Kawabata, Z.I., Knowler, D.J., Lévêque, C. et al. (2005) Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Reviews, 81, 163182.
Duncan, J.R. & Lockwood, J.L. (2001) Extinction in a field of bullets: a search for causes in the decline of the world's freshwater fishes. Biological Conservation, 102, 97105.
Feral-india (2011) Exploring Sustainable Land-use Practices in Rubber Plantations in a Critical Wildlife Corridor. Http:// [accessed 5 March 2012].
Fitzsimons, J.A. & Robertson, H.A. (2005) Freshwater reserves in Australia: directions and challenges for the development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas. Hydrobiologia, 552, 8797.
Fu, C., Wu, J., Wang, X., Lei, G. & Chen, J. (2004) Patterns of diversity, altitudinal range and body size among freshwater fishes in the Yangtze River basin, China. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 13, 543552.
Gaston, K.J., Jackson, S.F., Cant'u-Salazar, L. & Cruz-Pinon, G. (2008) The ecological performance of protected areas. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 39, 93113.
Gunawardene, N.R., Dulip Daniels, A.E., Gunatilleke, I.A.U.N., Gunatilleke, C.V.S., Karunakaran, P.V., Nayak, K.G. et al. (2007) A brief overview of the Western Ghats–Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Current Science, 93, 15671572.
Hansen, A.J. & DeFries, R.J. (2007) Ecological mechanisms linking protected areas to surrounding lands. Ecological Applications, 17, 974988.
Herbert, M.E., McIntyre, P.B., Doran, P.J., David Allan, J. & Abell, R. (2010) Terrestrial reserve networks do not adequately represent aquatic ecosystems. Conservation Biology, 24, 10021011.
Hermoso, V., Linke, S. & Prenda, J. (2008) Identifying priority sites for the conservation of freshwater fish biodiversity in a Mediterranean basin with a high degree of threatened endemics. Hydrobiologia, 623, 127140.
Ioja, C.I., Patroescu, M., Rozylowicz, L.J., Popescu, V.D., Verghelet, M., Zotta, M.I. & Felciuc, M. (2010) The efficacy of Romania's protected areas network in conserving biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 143, 24682476.
Ishwar, N.M., Chellam, R. & Kumar, A. (2001) Distribution of forest floor reptiles in the rainforest of Kalakad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, South India. Current Science, 80, 413418.
IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee (2010) Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Http:// [accessed 11 June 2010].
Jaramillo-Villa, U., Maldonado-Ocampo, J.A. & Escobar, F. (2010) Altitudinal variation in fish assemblage diversity in streams of the central Andes of Colombia. Journal of Fish Biology, 76, 24012417.
Joppa, L.N. & Pfaff, A. (2009) High and far: biases in the location of protected areas. PLoS One, 4, 16.
Joppa, L.N. & Pfaff, A. (2010) Reassessing the forest impacts of protection: the challenge of nonrandom location and a corrective method. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1185, 135149.
Jupiter, S., Tora, K., Mills, M., Weeks, R., Adams, V., Qauqau, I. et al. (2011) Filling the Gaps: Identifying Candidate Sites to Expand Fiji's National Protected Area Network. Outcomes report from provincial planning meeting. Wildlife Conservation Society, Suva, Fiji.
Kotagama, S.W. & Bambaradeniya, C.N.B. (2006) An Overview of the Wetlands of Sri Lanka and Their Conservation Significance. IUCN Sri Lanka and the Central Government Authority, National Wetland Directory, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Linke, S., Turak, E. & Nel, J. (2010) Freshwater conservation planning: the case for systematic approaches. Freshwater Biology, 56, 620.
McDonald, R.I., Green, P., Balk, D., Fekete, B.M., Revenga, C., Todd, M. & Mark Montgomery, M. (2011) Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 108, 63126317.
McNeely, J.A. (1987) How dams and wildlife can coexist: natural habitats, agriculture, and major water resource development projects in tropical Asia. Conservation Biology, 1, 228238.
McNeely, J.A., Harrison, J. & Dingwall, P. (1994) Protecting Nature: Regional Reviews of Protected Areas. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Mukul, S.A., Uddin, M.B., Uddin, M.S., Khan, M.A.S.A. & Marzan, B. (2008) Protected areas of Bangladesh: current status and efficacy for biodiversity conservation. Proceedings of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, 45, 5968.
Myers, N., Mittermier, R.A., Mittermier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B. & Kent, J. (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403, 853858.
Nair, S.C. (1991) Southern Western Ghats. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), New Delhi, India.
Nandakumar, T. (2010) Move to Stock Reservoirs with Carp Runs into Opposition. The Hindu, India. Http:// [accessed 12 March 2012].
Nel, J.L., Reyers, B., Roux, D.J. & Cowling, R.M. (2009) Expanding protected areas beyond their terrestrial comfort zone: identifying spatial options for river conservation. Biological Conservation, 142, 16051616.
Nel, J.L., Roux, D.J., Maree, G., Kleynhans, C.J., Moolman, J., Reyers, B. et al. (2007) Rivers in peril inside and outside protected areas: a systematic approach to conservation assessment of river ecosystems. Diversity and Distributions, 13, 341352.
Pethiyagoda, R. (1994) Threats to the indigenous freshwater fishes of Sri Lanka and remarks on their conservation. Hydrobiologia, 285, 189201.
Pittock, J., Hansen, L.J. & Abell, R. (2008) Running dry: freshwater biodiversity, protected areas and climate change. Tropical Conservancy: Biodiversity, 9, 3139.
Ramesh, B.R., Menon, S. & Bawa, K. (1997) A vegetation-based approach to biodiversity gap analysis in Agasthyamalai region, Western Ghats, India. Ambio, 28, 529536.
R Development Core Team (2010) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria. Http:// [accessed September 2010].
Richter, B.D., Braun, D.P., Mendelson, M.A. & Master, L.L. (2003) Threats to imperiled freshwater fauna. Conservation Biology, 11, 10811093.
Rodrigues, A.S.L., Akçakaya, H.R., Andelman, S.J., Bakarr, M.I., Boitani, L., Brooks, T.M. et al. (2004a) Global gap analysis: priority regions for expanding the global protected-area network. BioScience, 54, 10921100.
Rodrigues, A.S.L., Andelman, S.J., Bakarr, M.I., Boitani, L., Brooks, T.M., Cowling, R.M. et al. (2004b) Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature, 428, 640643.
Roux, D.J., Nel, J.L., Ashton, P.J., Deacon, A.R., de Moore, F.C., Hardwick, D. et al. (2008) Designing protected areas to conserve riverine biodiversity: lessons from a hypothetical redesign of the Kruger National Park. Biological Conservation, 141, 100117.
Royle, J.A. & Dorazio, R. (2008) Hierarchical Modeling and Inference in Ecology – The Analysis of Data from Populations, Metapopulations and Communities. Academic Press, San Diego, USA.
Saunders, D.L., Meeuwig, J.J. & Vincent, A.C.J. (2002) Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation. Conservation Biology, 16, 3041.
SCBD (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity) (2004) Biodiversity Issues for Consideration in the Planning, Establishment and Management of Protected Area Sites and Networks. CBD Technical Series no. 15, Montreal, Canada.
Scott, M.J., Davis, F.W., McGhie, R.G., Wright, R.G., Groves, C. & Estes, J. (2001) Nature reserves: do they capture the full range of America's biological diversity? Ecological Applications, 11, 9991007.
Spiegelhalter, D.J., Thomas, A., Best, N.G. & Lunn, D. (2007) WinBUGS Version 1.4.3 User Manual. MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, UK.
Sreekantha, M.D., Mesta, D.K., Rao, G.R., Gururaja, K.V. & Ramachandra, T.V. (2007) Fish diversity in relation to landscape and vegetation in central Western Ghats, India. Current Science, 92, 15921603.
Stolton, S., Mansourian, S. & Dudley, N. (2010) Valuing Protected Areas. Report for the World Bank's Global Environment Facility Coordination Team. World Bank, Washington, DC, USA.
Suski, C.D. & Cooke, S.J. (2007) Conservation of aquatic resources through the use of freshwater protected areas: opportunities and challenges. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16, 20152029.
Vasudevan, K., Kumar, A. & Chellam, R. (2006) Species turnover: the case of stream amphibians of rainforests in the Western Ghats, southern India. Biodiversity Conservation, 15, 35153525.
Vörösmarty, C.J., McIntyre, P.B., Gessner, M.O., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P. et al. (2010) Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature, 467, 555561.
Wunder, S. (2012) Of PES and other animals. Oryx, 46, 12.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Abraham Supplementary Material

 PDF (34 KB)
34 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed