Reducing global warming matters for freshwater fish species.
Climate change poses a significant threat to global biodiversity, but freshwater fishes have been largely ignored in climate change assessments. In this study we assess threats of future flow and water temperature extremes to ~11,500 riverine fish species. In a 3.2 °C warmer world (no further emission cuts after current governments’ pledges for 2030), 36% of the species have over half of their present-day geographic range exposed to climatic extremes beyond current levels. Threats are largest in tropical and sub-arid regions and increases in maximum water temperature are more threatening than changes in flow extremes. In comparison, 9% of the species are projected to have more than half of their present-day geographic range threatened in a 2 °C warmer world, which further reduces to 4% of the species if warming is limited to 1.5 °C. Our results highlight the need to intensify (inter)national commitments to limit global warming if freshwater biodiversity is to be safeguarded.