Freshwater systems are already in a worse condition overall than any other broad ecosystem type and have long suffered from a lack of adequate conservation attention. Likewise, relatively little attention is given to the climate-change impact vulnerability and response requirements of these systems. However, it is clear that freshwater habitats and their rich biodiversity are acutely vulnerable to a wide range of direct and indirect climate-change impacts. In addition to the severe socio-economic implications, these impact and response issues present an urgent engagement challenge for the conservation community. Although species-level conservation options are limited in the context of the overall biodiversity threat, it is evident that even under the most optimistic of climate-change impact scenarios many more species will require ex situ management for their survival. This conservation challenge will be compounded by a growing number of species for which there is no realistic likelihood of eventual persistence in the natural state. These issues highlight an urgent need for realistic climate-change impact considerations to be factored into threat evaluations, conservation planning and public-engagement initiatives.