Urgent need to focus on ecosystems as natural solutions to global water management challenges

17/10/2012

At CBD COP11, Ramsar's DSG urges a major shift in our attitudes to wetlands, to recognize their major value in delivering water for maintaining people’s livelihoods and the world’s economies.

In an interview for Climate TV at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP11 in Hyderabad, India, Ramsar's DSG Prof Nick Davidson describes the huge but greatly under-recognised value of inland and coastal wetlands for the benefits they provide to people throughout the world, and the increasing importance of maintaining and restoring our remaining wetlands for all sectors of society. "It is hard to think of any industry or other human activity that does not depend on a reliable water supply – even fossil power generation requires water for cooling" he said. [Watch the interview here].

When we refer to values of water-related ecosystem services, it is vital to recognise that these services and their values are derived from, and depend on, a properly functioning water cycle. The ability of ecosystems, particularly wetlands, to regulate water quantity and quality is what delivers most of our water-related services, maintaining species and the habitats on which they depend, and which in turn provide for people’s needs for water – for example, drinking water, water for food production, and for regulating extreme water events such as droughts and floods in our changing climate.

Yet, despite the very high value of these ecosystem services, wetlands have been – and continue to be - degraded or lost at an alarming pace, according to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Water and Wetlands report, released for consultation today at the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention for Biological Diversity. The authors of this synthesis study by the TEEB on “The Economics of Water and Wetlands” presented the key overall conclusions at a CBD COP11 press event on 16 October. "The related work CBD and Ramsar have been doing on the role of ecosystems in the water cycle has strengthened our knowledge about the mechanisms through which ecosystems influence water. This TEEB Water and Wetlands study presents the same topic from an economic and social perspective" said Nick Davidson. Read full press release here [PDF].

Because ecosystems are so central to sustaining our water, there is an increasingly urgent need now to focus on ecosystems as natural solutions to global water management challenges. The report – initiated by the Ramsar Secretariat with financial support from the Norwegian, Swiss and Finnish Governments and IUCN, and prepared by authors from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), together with the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, Ramsar’s Scientific & Technical Review Panel, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Wetlands International, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – lays out a raft of recommendations that must slow and ultimately halt and reverse the degradation of wetlands.

Taking much better account of the value of water and wetlands in public policy and private decisions for environmental management; fully integrating the management of wetlands and securing their wise use in water management; and through strategic environmental assessments ensuring that any further loss and conversion of wetlands is only allowed when no other possible options exist, are among the many steps that must be taken, according to the report.

Read the final consultation draft of the TEEB report [PDF] here.

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