Meeting ecological and societal needs for freshwater

Freshwater is vital to human life and societal well-being, but society has frequently not recognized the full value of healthy rivers, lakes, groundwater, and wetlands. There has been growing recognition that intact aquatic ecosystems provide many economically valuable services and long-term benefits to society, in addition to the provision of water. A new Ecological Society of America position paper explains the basis for sustaining freshwater ecosystems and details ways to go about reconciling ecosystem and human needs. The paper, Meeting Ecological and Societal Needs for Freshwater, addresses the complicated question of how society can extract the water resources that it needs while sustaining freshwater ecosystems.

ESA offers a series of recommendations for how water should be viewed and managed, and how aquatic ecosystems can be protected or restored. These include incorporating freshwater ecosystem needs into national and regional water management policies, defining water resources to include watersheds, and increasing communication and education across disciplines.

ESAs position paper notes that society has been taught to think about the environment as something somewhere else. Ecological processes are not viewed as essential to our daily lives or strongly influenced by our actions. This perception needs to change if we are to protect and restore our vital freshwater ecosystems. Changing the way freshwater ecosystems are viewed and used is a difficult but crucial task, says Jill Baron of the United States Geological Survey who chaired the Societys paper. A fundamental change in water management policies is needed, one that embraces a much broader view of the dynamic nature of freshwater resources and the short-and long-term benefits they provide.

The paper states that it is in the long-term economic interest of society to work to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems. The benefits of healthy freshwater systems include f

Contact: Nadine Lymn
Ecological Society of America

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