What lies within

13 September 2010 | News story

World Water Week traditionally focuses on the management of freshwater resources for human use. In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, of all years, we should not forget that many plant and animal species also require freshwater in specific quantities, quality, and at specific times, says Dr William Darwall of IUCN’s Species Programme.

Freshwater species not only represent an important component of global biodiversity but are also relied upon by many people for the services they provide. As in previous years, Water Week’s focus on biodiversity and the impacts of development of water resources turned out to be quite limited, says Dr Darwall with the exception of one symposium (convened by IUCN Member, Conservation International and partners) which had a specific focus on management of inland water ecosystems for the biodiversity within them.

During the symposium entitled 'International Year of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management: Science-Policy Interfaces', Dr Darwall presented the results of the latest Africa Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment as a key tool for guiding water resource management. Other new tools and information sources relating to water management were highlighted including the latest results of a global threat analysis (to be published in the science journal Nature shortly), models for predicting hydrological change, the relevance of conventions such as the Ramsar and an update on the ongoing struggle to include water within the 2020 Convention on Biological Diversity targets.

One significant conclusion to emerge from the presentations and panel discussion was that inland water ecosystems and their component species continue to be heavily threatened by water resources development for human needs and that it continues to be a major challenge to get this message across.

A key recommendation was the need to convey the message that healthy functioning wetlands actually help generate the water that people need (through maintenance of the water cycle) and should not be viewed simply as another competing user of a limited water supply, says Dr Darwall.

Getting this message across is seen as a critical step in improving the management of wetland ecosystems which are currently thought to be the most threatened of all while their value and importance to the water cycle continues to be greatly underestimated.

For more information contact:

William Darwall, IUCN Species Programme Freshwater Unit, email: william.darwall@iucn.org