Restricted by borders: trade-offs in transboundary conservation planning for large river systems

Anna Dolezsai, Péter Sály, Péter Takács, Virgilio Hermoso, Tibor Erős

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Effective conservation of freshwater biodiversity requires accounting for connectivity and the propagation of threats along river networks. With this in mind, the selection of areas to conserve freshwater biodiversity is challenging when rivers cross multiple jurisdictional boundaries. We used systematic conservation planning to identify priority conservation areas for freshwater fish conservation in Hungary (Central Europe). We evaluated the importance of transboundary rivers to achieve conservation goals by systematically deleting some rivers from the prioritization procedure in Marxan and assessing the trade-offs between complexity of conservation recommendations (e.g., conservation areas located exclusively within Hungary vs. transboundary) and cost (area required). We found that including the segments of the largest transboundary rivers (i.e. Danube, Tisza) in the area selection procedure yielded smaller total area compared with the scenarios which considered only smaller national and transboundary rivers. However, analyses which did not consider these large river segments still showed that fish diversity in Hungary can be effectively protected within the country’s borders in a relatively small total area (less than 20 % of the country’s size). Since the protection of large river segments is an unfeasible task, we suggest that transboundary cooperation should focus on the protection of highland riverine habitats (especially Dráva and Ipoly Rivers) and their valuable fish fauna, in addition to the protection of smaller national rivers and streams. Our approach highlights the necessity of examining different options for selecting priority areas for conservation in countries where transboundary river systems form the major part of water resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1421
Number of pages19
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 9 2015


  • Fish
  • Freshwater conservation areas
  • Marxan
  • Rivers
  • Systematic conservation planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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