Biodiv Sci ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (12): 1496-1510.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020191

• Special Feature: Biodiversity Conservation along the Yellow River • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Species diversity and conservation of freshwater fishes in the Yellow River basin

Yahui Zhao1,*(), Yingchun Xing2, Binbin Lü3, Chuanjiang Zhou4, Wenbo Yang2, Kai Zhao5,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    2. Research Center for Resources and Environment Protection, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, Beijing 100141
    3. Shaanxi Green Wiser Environmental Protection Technology Co. Ltd., Xi’an 710075;
    4. College of Fisheries, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang, Henan 453007
    5. Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008
  • Received:2020-07-07 Accepted:2020-08-15 Online:2020-12-20 Published:2020-12-31
  • Contact: Yahui Zhao,Kai Zhao


This paper firstly reviews the research history on fish taxonomy and species diversity of the Yellow River basin. It includes four stages from the beginning of a few records on fish distributed in the river to now with deep studies covering biodiversity, zoogeography, phylogeny, and conservation. Based on the research literatures, museum database and records, and our own field surveys in the past 15 years throughout the entire basin, we discuss the species richness, distribution pattern, endemism, and threatened species of the freshwater fishes in the Yellow River basin. A total of 147 species, belonging to 78 genera, 21 families, and 12 orders, are distributed in the Yellow River. Among them, fishes from the order Cypriniformes are dominant. There are 27 endemic species to the river and 24 threatened species, accounting for 18.37% and 16.32% of the total number of freshwater fish species of the river, respectively. Moreover, species diversity varied among the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the Yellow River. Comparing to other major rivers in China, the species richness is at a lower level although the diversity at higher taxon levels is relatively high. Proportions of endemic and threatened species of the Yellow River are lower than the average level of the entire nation. However, the upper reach has large proportions of both endemic and threatened species, which should be drawn more attention for future conservation. At present, the species diversity of freshwater fish is rapidly decreasing. Our thorough field investigations may collect only 53.06% of the total species. Cascade hydropower development, over-exploitation of water resources, invasive species, water pollution, and overfishing are major threats to the fish species of the Yellow River. The main stream and tributaries may face different threat that need targeted strategies for the conservation of freshwater fishes in the future.

Key words: Yellow River, sustainable development, freshwater fishes, endemic species, threatened species