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Inland Waters Biodiversity - What Needs to be Done?

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives (American Indian proverb quoted in Water Wasteland by David Zwick & Marcy Benstock, 1971)

Implementation is the critical issue. But because of the demands placed upon water by multiple stakeholders, this is not an easy task. A critical hurdle to overcome is for those sectors/interests/activities that impact inland waters to recognise that the sustainable use of inland water biodiversity is their responsibility also.

Good governance and institutions, and the political and legal mandates they provide, underpin the successful implementation of all response options.

The effective management of inland waters will require improved arrangements for river (or lake or aquifer) basin–scale management and integrated marine and coastal area management. The ecosystem approach has been developed as an overall strategy for integrated environmental management promoting conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

A major conceptual shift among policy-makers and decision-makers is required to ensure that cross-sectoral approaches that incorporate the principles of consultation and transparency, address trade-offs, and ensure the long-term future of the services provided and supported by inland waters are adopted and implemented effectively.

The drivers of loss of inland water biodiversity must be addressed. A priority when making decisions that directly or indirectly influence inland waters is to ensure that the decisions are informed by consideration of the full range of benefits (See the importance of inland waters) and values provided by different inland water ecosystem services. Economic valuation can provide a powerful tool for placing inland waters on the agendas of decision-makers.

Where necessary, awareness needs to be raised of the importance of inland waters and capacity developed to implement effective management. Trade-off decisions regarding inland waters are inevitable and set to continue, if not increase: but these need to include consideration of the real values that these ecosystems provide and the critical importance of balancing the multiple services that water provides.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme