CBD report on the biodiversity of inland water ecosystems

06/05/2004

Status and Trends of Biodiversity of Inland Water Ecosystems

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has published a thorough and insightful 120-page report on the "Status and Trends of Biodiversity of Inland Water Ecosystems". Written by Carmen Revenga and Yumiko Kura of the World Resources Institute, the publication was assisted financially by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) through a project administered by Wetlands International and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, and peer reviewed by experts from the CBD and Ramsar secretariats, Wetlands International, and others. It covers the following major subjects: the condition of and threats to inland water ecosystems; a review of inland water species richness, distribution and conservation status; inland water ecosystems and habitats identified as high conservation priority; and data gaps and information needs, and it includes an informative review of 18 other ongoing assessments of water resources and inland water biodiversity, including those by IUCN, BirdLife, WWF, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, CGIAR, LakeNet and others. The Foreword, co-written by Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD, and Peter Bridgewater, Ramsar's Secretary General, is reprinted below, and information on procuring this new volume in the CBD Technical Series, no. 11, can be sought from the CBD, secretariat@biodiv.org.

FOREWORD reprinted from the book

That water is important to life on earth, including for sustaining human populations, is self-evident to most of us. What is less widely appreciated is that out of the world's total water resources, less than 3% is represented by freshwater and less than 1 % of that (less than 0.01% of total water) occurs in the earth's liquid surface freshwater (the remainder being locked in ice-caps or as groundwater, below the planet's surface). This fraction of water available on earth is home to an extraordinarily high level of biodiversity that is directly supported through a range of freshwater ecosystem types that includes running waters in rivers, standing waters of lakes and marshes and areas of transient water availability in seasonal or ephemeral wetlands. These inland water ecosystems provide a vital range of goods and services essential for sustaining human well-being.

The complexity, and variability in space and time, of these ecosystems is still being documented by scientists but their importance is unquestioned. Witness, for example, the fact that all major civilizations have evolved in association with river systems, as confirmed today by the location of most major cities. Humans need freshwater not only for drinking, but also for agriculture, industry, transportation and many other important uses. But as human populations have grown, and consumptive uses of water increased, our activities have taken an enormous toll on the global freshwater resource. Not only are we over-consuming a very valuable and finite resource, and the life it supports, we are abusing it by, for example, allowing pollution from activities on the land to flow into rivers, to be transported for eventual dilution in the sea, or to be accumulated in lakes and other wetlands. It is not surprising that the stresses we have placed upon inland waters have resulted in them now being considered amongst the most threatened global ecosystems.

We are starting to take notice of these problems, and have begun efforts to address them. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), commonly referred to as the "Ramsar Convention", was the first formal global inter-government initiative to improve the sustainability of life dependent upon inland waters. While the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) covers all ecosystem types and geographical regions, it has identified "inland waters" as an immediately important thematic area of work. A considerable number of local, national, regional and global initiatives are also now focussing directly or indirectly on conservation and sustainable use of inland waters, including many sponsored by non-government organisations such as Wetlands International, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, The WWF for Nature and BirdLife International.

Our ability to identify the current status of, and subsequently monitor, the biodiversity of inland waters and the ecosystem services they provide for the planet is a fundamental requirement. If we cannot do this, we cannot assess our progress towards meeting key conservation and sustainable use goals in this important area. In recognition of this fact, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have requested the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to review this subject as a priority. We are pleased to present this review as a joint effort between the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention to further illustrate their continued cooperation towards achieving important common goals, and especially as a contribution towards the overall goal of the World Summit on Sustainable Development of significantly reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.

The subject matter in this document is complex. Data and information are often lacking or, at best, difficult to access. We present this document as neither a comprehensive nor a final text, but rather as a starting point. "Trends", by definition, infer analysis over time. We hope that this document will be upgraded and updated on a regular basis.

Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity

Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General, Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)


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