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Importance of Freshwater Crabs

Freshwater crabs are an important component of food webs in aquatic ecosystems. They favor pristine habitat and are extremely sensitive to environmental change, which make them excellent bioindicators of freshwater ecosystems.
by  Dr Sun Hongying
The change in abundance and diversity of freshwater crabs can serve as an early warning of ecosystem changes.

China has the highest diversity of freshwater crabs in the world but most species require urgent risk assessment due to the lack of data. To better protect freshwater crabs, OPCF funded a project with Professor Sun Hongying from Nanjing Normal University to assess freshwater crab diversity and investigate their current habitat status in the mountains of Yunnan, where the highest number of freshwater crabs in China can be found.
by  Dr Sun Hongying
by  Dr Sun Hongying
The diversity of mountain freshwater crabs is extremely vulnerable to human activity. The biggest threats to these freshwater crabs were found to be human disturbance from road and highway construction and the capture of crabs for food, bait or medicine, negatively affecting 70% of sites. Other major threats include pollution and habitat degradation or complete habitat loss from channelization and damming of streams.
by  Dr Sun Hongying
by  Dr Sun Hongying
The research team conducted field surveys in 32 sites spanning across north, west and southern Yunnan. During this project, scientists identified 30 species in total. Out of the 30 species found, 2 species have been classified as endangered, and 4 as vulnerable by IUCN standards. Two new species were also discovered in south and west Yunnan and one species in west Yunnan was a first record for China. However, results from the field surveys show that the distribution of freshwater crabs in the mountain areas of Yunnan has significantly reduced over the past 10 years.

Only 1 out of the 160 protected areas in Yunnan is protected for invertebrates which suggests that the protection for freshwater crabs is majorly deficient. Only habitats of 16 crabs fall under the boundaries of these protected areas, leaving the habitats of 14 species unprotected. Of the 14 species unprotected, 1 is listed as endangered and 3 are listed as vulnerable. Through this project, education materials have been distributed to local communities to increase public awareness and promote the need for biodiversity of freshwater crab species. Additionally, under a new government initiative, many villagers are being translocated into cities which has eased up the water conflict between local villagers and the crabs.

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