Biodiversity in inland water ecosystems
Project Proposal (April 1997)
|Title:||Biodiversity in inland water ecosystems: trends and options for improved conservation and management|
|Implementing body:||Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (Chairman: Professor Edward Maltby)|
|Technical partners:||Diversitas; the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP); the Ramsar Convention Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP); the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE); the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC); Wetlands International; the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC); the World Resources Institute (WRI); the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); the World Bank|
|Duration:||April 1997 - May 1998 (and beyond)|
|Total budget:||US$ 302,000|
Freshwater biodiversity is increasingly threatened by unsustainable development worldwide. While international strategies (Caring for the Earth, Agenda 21) produced in recent years have succeeded in highlighting guiding principles for improved management and conservation of inland freshwater ecosystems, much remains to be done - in terms of information and public awareness, resource assessment, integrated management, species protection and capacity building - to define a set of practical actions that could reduce effectively the degradation of freshwater biodiversity.
Taking advantage of the fact that the third Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity has mandated work in the biodiversity of inland waters, this project will assess the extent of the degradation of freshwater resources, identify remedial measures for the short, medium and long term, and generate recommendations for improved policies and management actions that can contribute practically to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and their biodiversity.
Produced by an international Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group, in association with a series of regional teams of experts, the final report will seek to assist Parties to the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Ramsar towards adopting improved procedures and practices in support of freshwater biodiversity conservation. In the longer term, these outputs will also increase the capacity of IUCN members and partners with expertise on water allocations and river basin management to implement a more coherent programme on inland water systems in 1997-1999, through a clearer definition of short, medium and long term actions for improved river, lake and wetland management and restoration. The total cost of this project is US$ 302,000.
Freshwater biodiversity and productivity:
Life on earth depends on water, which maintains and links the planet's ecosystems. Freshwater drives plant growth and provides many habitats for a large number of species, such as 8,500 species of freshwater fish, and a breeding ground or temporary home for others, including a large proportion of the 4,200 species of amphibians and reptiles described so far. Water provides the major pathway for sediments and nutrients, but also pollutants. Through erosion, transportation and deposition by rivers, glaciers, and ice sheets, water shapes the landscape and through evaporation drives the energy exchange between the land and the atmosphere, thus controlling the Earth's climate.
Freshwater aquatic ecosystems include a large variety of natural river, lake, marsh, swamps, spring and cave environments, as well as man-made ponds, canals and reservoirs. Together they support 40% of the world's fish species. Other groups are less well studied but those with significant numbers of species in freshwater include: insects, mites, crustaceans, molluscs, nematodes, vascular plants, algae, fungi, protozoans, bacteria and viruses. Freshwater ecosystems also supports a large biomass of sedentary and migratory waterfowl, which have often been used as indicators of the health and integrity of freshwater ecosystems. However, the exact extent of freshwater biodiversity, and its precise conservation status is only partly documented. The proportion of the world's freshwaters in protected areas (probably less than 8%) is not known precisely, and in any case most water resources will always lie outside the global network of protected areas. Much of the available supplies of water are shared between users and countries, and conflicts among stakeholders are likely to escalate in the future.
The processes occurring naturally in freshwater ecosystems are essential for human life support, as well as the welfare of wildlife. Thus, these ecosystems provide important benefits to people: for example, capture fisheries in inland waters averaged 7 million tons per year in the early 1990s and rice, the main staple food in many countries, depends on a plentiful supply of good quality water.
Threats to freshwater ecosystems:
Global water withdrawals by people for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes are believed to have grown more than 35-fold during the past three centuries, and a further increase by 30-35% (or more) by 2025 will result in severe water stress for up to 1100 million people. Some continents will be affected more than others; for example, in Africa 60% of the projected population in the year 2025 will be short of water. The consequences of the rising demand for water and energy upon freshwater ecosystems have become increasingly apparent in recent years. Irrigated agriculture is responsible for waterlogging and salinization of large areas of fertile soils. Impacts of large dams and river diversion projects include groundwater depletion, habitat degradation, destruction of traditional production systems, displacement of populations, and increase of water borne disease. Industrial wastes and nutrient run-off have caused severe decline in water quality throughout the world.
However, widespread water abstraction for human development and the progressive degradation of inland freshwater systems have caused serious declines in the number of native species, increases in the number of invasive species, declines in percentage of specialist over generalist species, increases in the incidence of disease and anomalies, increases in spatial or temporal fluctuations, etc. Many aquatic ecosystems are being damaged or lost, and recent data suggest that more than half of the world's wetlands have been destroyed this century. The productivity and diversity of freshwater ecosystems have decreased particularly rapidly, and several hundred freshwater fish and invertebrate species are now endangered and many otherwise sustainable small-scale fisheries are overexploited. Although there are examples where aquatic systems have been restored (e.g. a few European and North American rivers and wetlands), much remains to be done to reduce current development impacts on the integrity, diversity and productivity of aquatic ecosystems.
Need for integrated action:
Rising water demand will exacerbate these impacts unless societies adopt improved strategies for inte-grated water management so as to ensure that the quantity and quality of water is maintained for people and for the ecosystems that support them. A central principle of Agenda 21 and Caring for the Earth (IUCN/UNEP/WWF, 1991) is that the lives of people and the environment are profoundly linked. Moreover, the Dublin Statement issued by the UN Conference on Water and the Environment (1992) concluded that "since water sustains all life, effective management of water resources demands a holistic approach, linking social and economic development with protection of natural ecosystems".
In Agenda 21 and in Caring for the Earth a first attempt was made to produce guiding principles for the conservation and sustainable use of freshwater ecosystems. The guiding principles included recommendations for work in the following areas: information, awareness and education; training; management (integrated water management, sustainable water allocations, drainage basin management, community participation); ecosystem and species conservation; and international cooperation. However, the challenge lies now in moving from the principles highlighted in Agenda 21, and in other documents, towards the definition of a set coordinated actions that will be effective in assisting stakeholders to halt the degradation of freshwater biodiversity and to restore inland freshwater ecosystems.
For example, in relation to resource assessment, aquatic biodiversity is not well known and a comprehensive review of biodiversity in the main types of freshwater systems is a priority. Likewise, a standardised classification of freshwater ecosystems (amalgamating the main classification systems currently in use) needs to be adopted; rapid progress needs to be made to define, and agree on improved methodologies for integrated river basin management, including the restoration of rivers, lakes and wetlands, whether or not these are shared by several countries; the role of protected areas in safeguarding viable stocks of freshwater resources needs to be re-examined in the light of the latest information on endangered flora and fauna; and priority actions in terms of capacity building needs to be formulated.
Adopted in 1996 by the Convention on Biological Diversity, Decision III/13 (Future Programme of Work for Terrestrial Biological Diversity: Dryland, Mountain and Inland Water Ecosystems) dealing with the assessment of freshwater biodiversity and the identification of improved management options for inland water systems must be seen as an opportunity to operationalise the most important principles described in the strategies for global freshwater conservation published in recent years.
The proposed project will examine in detail the essential steps that need to be taken to ensure an improved management of freshwater ecosystems to ensure adequate conservation of the diversity of aquatic species and genetic stocks (i.e., as opposed to addressing the importance of water for maintai-ning global diversity). It will seek to provide useful inputs into discussions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, taking advantage of the fact that its third Conference of Parties in 1996 mandated work in the biodiversity of inland waters (to be addressed by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice in September 1997 and its fourth Conference of Parties in May 1998). The project will also seek to involve the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention, since this Convention has been formally designated by the Convention on Biological Diversity (Decision III/21) as its lead partner on wetland issues and has been invited to contribute to the assessment of the status and trends of inland water ecosystems.
The project will assess the extent of freshwater ecosystem changes, especially in terms of species loss and habitat degradation and its causes, including the critical role of alien invasive species of plants and animals upon the diversity of aquatic systems. The detailed impacts of human actions upon freshwater systems and biodiversity will be documented and, having identified remedial measures for the short, medium and long term, the project will synthesize available information in order to formulate recommendations for improved research, management practices and policy formulation. It will indicate the needs for capacity building and education activities that could effectively reduce the degradation of freshwater biodiversity. In doing so, it is essential that the lessons learnt in the field, especially in terms of resource assessment, integrated management, capacity building, etc., play a key role in the definition of priority actions to ensure that these are politically, culturally and practically adapted to the regional contexts. Therefore, in designing this project, it was considered essential to involve the regional networks of experts set up by IUCN, and its members and partners, in the definition of this action plan for freshwater biodiversity conservation.
GOAL AND OBJECTIVES
The goal of this project is to mobilise governments and non-governmental institutions and experts with specialist knowledge in river, lake and wetland conservation issues to work with IUCN Commissions and programmes, and other institutions and networks, in assisting the Secretariats to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to the Ramsar Convention to implement their priorities in relation to the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity (i.e., CBD Decision III/13) and to the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2000.
Specific objectives, designed to be met initially within a 18-24 month period, include:
- To identify the principal reasons for increasing alterations to the integrity of inland water systems and the loss of freshwater biodiversity in all major regions;
- To contribute to building national capacity in selected regions (Africa, Asia, Latin America) for dealing with these issues through participation of regional experts in the project;
- To contribute to building awareness of the growing threats to inland water ecosystems among policy makers and natural resource managers;
- To clearly highlight practical policy and management responses to the issues identified;
- To assist in building long term political support for addressing the growing impact of unsustainable development on freshwater resources at local (field), national and international levels, including through encouraging the Parties to the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Ramsar to consider adopting and implementing an action programme for improved conservation of inland freshwater ecosystems;
- To assist in defining a clear Union-wide action programme on the sustainable use of water resources, and on the improved management of freshwater ecosystems and their biodiversity, for the triennium and beyond.
The project work plan has been approved by the Steering Committee of CEM in March 1997, but owing to the fact that the time table of activities is extremely tight, the dates set out below are only indicative. Key steps towards completion of the project goal and objectives are as follows:
1. Proposal circulated to, and approved by the Ramsar STRP (mid-April 1997);
2. CEM Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group and regional support teams established (late April 1997);
3. Draft report outline produced and distributed by the CEM Working Group; identification of key contributors (May 1997); key contributors assisted by regional support teams, and cooperating institutions, draft assigned chapters (May-June 1997);
4. Editing Committee (a sub-set of the main Working Group) revise draft chapters, incorporating additional input from the regional support teams, cooperating networks and institutions (June 1997);
5. Technical/editing workshop to comment on first draft (workshop of the Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group to be hosted by Wetlands International in Wageningen, July 1997);
6. Hold workshop on Inland Freshwater Biodiversity as part of the Global Biodiversity Forum - GBF (Montreal, end August 1997);
7. Present interim draft to the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Montreal, early September 1997);
8. Incorporate comments received from GBF, SBSTTA and the Ramsar STRP into the interim draft (October-November 1997);
9. Presentation of the interim draft to the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention (November 1997);
10. Publish final report, including specific recommendations for an action programme for Parties to the Biodiversity and Ramsar Conventions (December1997-January 1998);
11. Circulation of final report to focal points of CBD and Ramsar (February 1998);
12. Circulation of the final report to GBF participants and to delegations attending the 4th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (May 1998);
13. Integration of overall project outputs into the freshwater component of the IUCN programmes on ecosystem management and biodiversity policy (July 1998);
14. Submission of decisions taken by CBD COP4 to Ramsar CoP 7 (Costa Rica, May 1999) for further consideration and action.
The overall output of the project will be a better understanding of the threats affecting freshwater bio-diversity, and of the coordinated measures which could be set in place to maintain and/or restore inland freshwater ecosystems.
Specific outputs include:
- A publication providing a concise assessment of the threats to inland water systems and their biodiversity, and a strategy for improved management and conservation. This publication will include practical examples showing how specific management measures can usefully enhance freshwater biodiversity;
- Specific advice provided to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (and its SBSTTA) to allow the production of informed decisions in relation to the Convention's programme on terrestrial biological diversity;
- Specific advice provided to Parties to the Ramsar Convention to support the implementation of Brisbane Resolutions 6.9 (Cooperation with CBD) and 6.23 (Ramsar and Water);
- Specific advice provided to the World Meteorological Organisation, the Global Water Partnership, the World Water Council and other water related organisations;
- Strengthening of existing IUCN networks on water allocations and river basin management.
In the longer term, these outputs will also increase the capacity of IUCN members and partners with expertise on water allocations and river basin management to implement a more coherent programme on inland water systems in 1997-1999, through a clearer definition of short, medium and long term actions for improved river, lake and wetland management and restoration. Moreover, the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management will use the project outputs at global and regional levels to assist decision makers to modify their approach and current policy and management strategies for freshwater ecosystems.
The project will be jointly coordinated by Professor Edward Maltby, Chairman of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management - CEM (and Director, Royal Holloway Institute for Environmental Research, UK), Dr Hillary Masundire (University of Botswana, CEM Steering Committee member) and Dr Jean-Yves Pirot (Ecosystem Management Programme, IUCN Headquarters).
Established under CEM, a Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group will be responsible for addressing strategic issues, and policy and management directions. It will include representatives from the following institutions and networks: Diversitas, the International Geosphere-Biosphere programme (IGBP), the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), the Specialist Groups on Declining Reptiles and Amphibians of the Species Survival Commission (SSC), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the World Bank (ASTEN and ENV), and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). Wetlands International will also be a key member of the Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group, and as such Wetlands International has agreed to organise the technical workshop which will take place in July, 1997 in Wageningen (The Netherlands).
Other institutions or networks will be associated to the project (e.g. the International Association of Hydraulic Engineers and/or other networks of water managers, the USAID Freshwater Biodiversity Unit), as appropriate.
Key chapters of the report will be produced by experts with a proven track record in freshwater biodiversity issues. These will work in close collaboration with leaders of international networks, and with experts from the regional support teams. Regional support teams will be established in Eastern, Southern and Western Africa, Latin America and Asia under the auspices of the relevant IUCN programmes. Regional teams will be responsible for ensuring that the significant experience gained in the field by IUCN members and partners is made available to the Freshwater Biodiversity Working Group, for producing specific case studies, and for reviewing specific chapters of the report with a view to ensure that policy and management guidelines will be both practical and effective in fostering an improved conservation of inland freshwater ecosystems at the regional level.
|Staff time for coordinators (x3)|| |
|CEM Research Assistant (6 months)|| |
|International travel (x5)|| |
|Honoraria for key contributors (x12)|| |
|Regional working groups (x5)|| |
|Technical/editing workshop in the Netherlands (15 participants)|| |
|Inland freshwater biodiversity workshop at GBF|| |
|Organisation costs of two meetings|| |
|Documentation and reproduction|| |
|Secretariat support|| |
|Publication of report and flyer|| |
|Distribution of documents|| |
|World Wide Web|| |
|Contingencies (5%)|| |
|Overhead charges (14%)|| |
|Total (in US$):|| |