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Water security for ecosystems, ecosystems for water security

Tickner, David; Acreman, Mike. 2013 Water security for ecosystems, ecosystems for water security. In: Lankford, Bruce; Bakker, Karen; Zeitoun, Mark; Conway, Declan, (eds.) Water security: principles, perspectives, and practices. Abingdon, Routledge, 130-147. (Earthscan Water Text Series).

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Abstract/Summary

The recent discourse on water security has emerged against a backdrop of increasing human demand for, and struggle over, scarce water resources across the globe (e.g. UN Development Programme, 2006; World Water Assessment Programme, 2009). The socio-economic dimensions of water scarcity and water security have been extensively documented (see for instance most of the other chapters in this book). In contrast, the consequences of water policy and management decisions for freshwater ecosystems, and the potential knock-on effects on society from changes to those ecosystems, have often either been implicit in academic and policy debates about water security or they have been overlooked. This is despite fact that dams, over-abstraction of water and other pressures have led to high-profile failures of freshwater ecosystems, such as the Murray-Darling River and the Aral Sea, with very substantial socio-economic and political impacts. In fact, rivers and wetlands are now among the most threatened of all ecosystems globally (Finlayson et al, 2005; Vörösmarty et al, 2010; WWF, 2012). More broadly, the magnified political and media profile of environmental sustainability issues, dating back to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, suggests that sustainable management of natural resources requires specific attention to environmental, as well as socio-economic, concerns. Reasons for the lack of attention to freshwater ecosystems in the water security discourse include the historical gap in concepts and language, and perceived gaps in priorities, between those primarily concerned with conserving river, lake and wetland ecosystems and those whose job it has been to develop and manage water resources for human use. There are signs that these hitherto distinct specialisms are now converging, at least in some key aspects. Recognising the need to optimize multiple uses of freshwater ecosystems in a world of more than seven billion people, conservation NGOs such as WWF and The Nature Conservancy have begun to engage constructively in policy debates and basin-scale strategic planning. Similarly many in the water resource management sector have reflected on lessons from decades of reliance on supply-side solutions, expensive built infrastructure and end-of-pipe technical fixes and have become open to a wider range of possible interventions, including those which maintain or restore key ecosystem functions or embrace natural infrastructure – such as wetlands – as an effective and sustainable solution to many water management challenges. Importantly, concepts and tools which highlight the value – in dollar terms or otherwise – of natural capital and ecosystem services (de Groot, 1992; Barbier, 2009) have gained traction with both groups. This chapter describes the evolution of approaches to both freshwater conservation and water resource management and points to evidence that new approaches, which place the maintenance of strategically important ecosystem services at the heart of water policy, offer significant scope for the pursuit of a range of complementary social, environmental and economic outcomes. A specific focus is on natural infrastructure and environmental flows as tools for securing long-term benefits for society and for ecosystems.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 2 - Ecohydrological Processes > WA - 2.3 - Assess the responses of river, lake and wetland ecosystems to ecohydrological drivers
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 3 - Science for Water Management > WA - 3.2 - Assessment of available water resources in a changing world ...
CEH Sections: Acreman
ISBN: 9780415534710
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Hydrology
Related URLs:
Date made live: 24 Oct 2013 09:47 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/502691

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