- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee organization has helped create a colorful set of maps that could help freshwater biologists determine where they should prioritize their ongoing efforts to protect the Southeast’s diverse watersheds.

Biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute in Chattanooga and the University of Georgia’s River Basin Center recently published a report that shows conservationists where the region’s aquatic biodiversity is strongest and where it is most endangered, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported (https://bit.ly/2jpmn4J).

Anna George, Tennessee Aquarium’s vice president said she hopes the image will also demonstrate to the public just how diverse the Southeast’s watersheds are. Nearly two-thirds of the country’s fish species are found in the region. So are almost half of the world’s crayfish species and 90 percent of the nation’s mussel species.

“Freshwater doesn’t have large, charismatic animals,” George said. “There aren’t whales and dolphins, but what we do have is like a rainforest, where all these different species add up together for something beautiful and unique.”

The maps are color-coded to illustrate priority areas for biologists based on three factors: richness, endemism and imperilment.

Richness is the total number of species in a particular watershed. Endemism is how distinctive the species are to their specific watershed. Imperilment is how endangered the species is.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, https://www.timesfreepress.com

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