Jeremy Shelton’s underwater photos show one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world

This is having an impact on both nature and man. Freshwater fish provide food for 200 million people and livelihoods for 60 million, the report says, and we depend on river ecosystems for water, sanitation and energy.

“Rivers are the arteries of our planet,” says the South African biologist and photographer for freshwater conservation Jeremy Shelton. “They carry fresh, clean water from the mountains down through the landscapes and give us this vital resource that we rely heavily on for drinking, agriculture and industry.”
Shelton, a researcher at the Freshwater Research Center in South Africa, he was enchanted by river ecosystems as a child, when he splashed in a small stream behind the family home. But realizing that others were less fascinated by the dark depths, he later picked up his camera, aiming to show the rich diversity of freshwater life and warn of his frailty.

“It’s about inspiring people to become more aware of the natural world around them and once the connection is made, to change the way they behave, the way they act, the way they connect with the life around them, “Shelton tells CNN.

His images were included in the WWF report on freshwater fish and were widely shared Instagramincluding by activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

South African rivers in danger

In Shelton’s home country, river ecosystems are in urgent need of protection. Freshwater fish are the most threatened group of species in South Africa, and wetlands and rivers are under more pressure than any other ecosystem, according to the National Biodiversity Assessment 2018. The report notes that half of South Africa’s freshwater fish species are found nowhere else in the world, so conservation strategies are badly needed to prevent population decline and minimize threats such as degradation. habitat and invasive predatory species.

“I am witnessing this widespread deterioration of the freshwater ecosystems around me and I am really motivated by the opportunity to be able to work on the conservation of some of these systems,” says Shelton.

An aerial photograph of a river in Western Cape, South Africa.

He is involved in a number of freshwater conservation projects, such as the Cape Critical Rivers project, which focuses on the conservation of threatened species such as the Clanwilliam sandalfish and Barrydale’s redfin, and outdoor learning projects that aim to connect young people with river ecosystems.

But Shelton believes images have the power to go beyond borders and communicate the beauty of nature and the biodiversity crisis on a global scale.

Scientists' investigation has threatened freshwater fish in South Africa's Doring River.

“Through these images and the science that accompanies them, (I want to) open people’s minds to the beauty and fragility of life beneath the surface of our rivers and wetlands,” he says.

“I hope that through connecting with these invisible worlds, people will treat them a little more kindly and that people will be a little more thoughtful about how we live our lives and how we interact with these natural ecosystems. ”