Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (FEOW)

Freshwater ecosystems are under unprecedented stress due to growing habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and falling levels of biodiversity. Modelling their health and planning conservation strategies require recent and good data, and the Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (FEOW) dataset, hosted by the World Wildlife Fund since 2008, is a central portal for current data on freshwater ecosystems and the species that live within them. Their dataset is organized by biogeographic regions and includes distribution data on freshwater fish, amphibians, turtles, and crocodiles. By organizing data by ecoregion, as opposed to country, a more realistic model of freshwater status can emerge. The dataset is frequently updated, though it is still worth considering that ecoregions that sit in multiple countries could struggle with inaccuracy since data collection methods aren’t necessarily coordinated nor uniform. There is also the issue of creating lineated boundaries of freshwater ecosystems since mapping habitat ranges for individual species is always a process of best approximation. The above issues are present in any map and dataset that seeks to create distinct boundaries between habitats, but they should not detract from the usefulness of the FEOW.

World Wildlife Fund. (2020). Conservation Science Data and Tools.;

World Wildlife Fund. (2020). Freshwater Ecoregions of the World.–2;

Abell, Robin, Michele L. Thieme, Carmen Revenga, Mark Bryer, Maurice Kottelat, Nina Bogutskaya, Brian Coad et al. “Freshwater ecoregions of the world: a new map of biogeographic units for freshwater biodiversity conservation.” BioScience 58, no. 5 (2008): 403-414;

Petry, A. C., T. F. R. Guimarães, F. M. Vasconcellos, S. M. Hartz, F. G. Becker, R. S. Rosa, G. Goyenola et al. “Fish composition and species richness in eastern South American coastal lagoons: additional support for the freshwater ecoregions of the world.” Journal of Fish Biology 89, no. 1 (2016): 280-314. 


Biodiversity, Climate Change, Data, Ecological Modelling