Underwater photographs reveal the delicate beauty of rivers

Underwater photographs reveal the delicate beauty of rivers

Conservationists frequently overlook freshwater fish in favour of their brilliantly colourful, more photogenic saltwater cousins. However, Jeremy Shelton, a scientist and photographer based in Cape Town, defies the trend by documenting fish like these Breede River redfins. Shelton, Jeremy. Freshwater fish are becoming increasingly significant, with a third of global populations in peril and 80 species already extinct, according to a WWF research from 2021. In the Sonderend River in the Western Cape of South Africa, a Cape galaxias is photographed. Shelton, Jeremy.

However, freshwater fish are also the most threatened species group in South Africa and wetlands and rivers are under more pressure than any other ecosystem, the report says. Pictured here are red minnows in the Rondegat River. Jeremy Shelton According to the report, the main threats to freshwater fish populations are habitat degradation, climate change and predation by invasive alien fishes, such as the sharptooth catfish (pictured). Jeremy Shelton

This picture shows Clanwilliam sawfin — found only in the country’s Northern and Western Cape provinces — swimming in the Driehoek River. South Africa’s rivers are home to exceptional biodiversity, with half of its freshwater fish species found nowhere else in the world, according to the 2018 national biodiversity assessment. Jeremy Shelton

Pollution is another major threat to freshwater ecosystems, as is climate change and water extraction. Shelton wants to capture these threats in his images. Jeremy Shelton. These dead fish are pictured in the Gouritz River, a dry part of the Western Cape. Shelton says that the fish were killed due to excessive water extraction and a harmful algal bloom. Jeremy Shelton.

The stonefly (pictured) acts as a healthy river indicator, explains Shelton. As one of the most sensitive invertebrates in South Africa, its presence indicates that the water quality is good and fit for human use. But if it disappears, it’s a sign of pollution or some other disturbance, he says. Jeremy Shelton .Shelton also likes to capture the moments of connection and curiosity between people and freshwater life. Shown here snorkelling with Cape kurper fish is Jordan Calder, a conservation biologist turned life sciences schoolteacher. Jeremy Shelton.

But fish aren’t the only subject of Shelton’s photographs. Rivers and wetlands support a diversity of life, from amphibians like the Cape river frog (pictured), to river crabs, insects and water snakes. Jeremy Shelton. Pictured here are critically endangered ghost frog tadpoles, found only in South Africa. The main threats to the species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are agriculture and aquaculture, human disturbance, water management and invasive non-native species. Jeremy Shelton

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