Connecting to Foster Understanding and Conservation of Spring Ecosystems

Springs are unique habitats consisting of multiple ecotones connecting groundwater and surface-water systems, aquatic and terrestrial realms, and the springhead with a spring-fed stream, pond, or marsh. They are extremely diverse geologically, chemically, and biologically. They also vary widely in terms of landscape connectivity, ranging from extremely isolated desert springs to mesic springs with downstream connections to extensive stream drainage systems. Connectivity of springs is critical for their conservation; it affects the genetic differentiation and endemicity of populations, the welfare of downstream species, and effects of invasion by non-native species into spring systems. Freshwater scientists focusing on springs are globally a small (<100) community and until recently worked largely in isolation. However, international networks are fostering collaboration, including the sharing of expertise, data, sites, and research opportunities. This Special Session focuses on the importance of fostering collaboration among scientists and other stakeholders in conserving freshwater springs, which are important economically, culturally, and scientifically. Topics will include the importance of connectivity among spring habitats and the people studying them, and the scientific value of springs as natural laboratories for studying the biological consequences of environmental change.