Protecting our freshwater ecosystems.

Rivers can be described as the Earth’s arteries. Maintaining a steady flow of fresh, clean water is essential for the survival of vast ecosystems and billions of people. Healthy freshwater ecosystems also supply water for growing crops, manufacturing, energy and transport – as well as waste disposal, erosion control and natural protection from flooding. WWF are committed to protecting freshwater environments and wildlife – whether it’s oysters in the UK or river dolphins in the Amazon. 


Less famous than their marine cousins, eight different species of river dolphin are found in Asia and South and Central America. However, we still know very little about these charismatic animals.

Rivers and Wildlife

From kingfishers to caimans, herons to hippos, an amazing range of animals and plants call rivers their home. Relative to their area, freshwater habitats are richer in species than anywhere else. Rivers also provide vital resources for people, where they support fisheries, store flood water, provide building materials and even purify water and control erosion. If freshwater habitats are damaged, both people and nature suffer. In some parts of the world more than 50% of wetlands have been destroyed over the past century, killing off species and threatening people. The main problems have been unsustainable development and people’s huge demands for water.

What we’re doing to help

Freshwater conservation has been at the heart of our work since the very beginning. Back in the 1960s we helped establish one of the world’s first wetland reserves, saving Spain’s precious Doñana wetlands from being destroyed by eucalypt plantations.

Our strategy for safeguarding freshwater habitats and species still centres around setting up well-managed protected areas. We know protected areas on their own don’t solve everything. We promote the sustainable use and management of all freshwater habitats. By working at all levels from local to global we’re making sure these valuable ecosystems are kept healthy for the generations of today and the future.

Get involved

Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world’s water systems, including more floods and droughts. Why not use our Footprint Calculator to see how your current way of like if affecting the environment. Measuring yours takes less than 5 minutes and could change the way you live…

You might also want to make an adoption, where your donation will be used to promote sustainable use of natural resources, enable local communities to manage protected areas, and fund our other essential work around the world.