standard Healthy ecosystems can boost community resilience

A new report from the United Nations Environmental Field Programme (UNEP) was launched recently during ‘World Water Week’ in Stockholm, Sweden – ‘An Ecosystems Approach to Water and Food Security’.  It was ‘written by over 50 contributors from 21 organizations and uses case studies from China, Guatemala, Jordan and other communities’.

It not only highlights how to conserve food and water resources and make them more widely available, but explains in detail how ‘ecosystem services’ can play a crucial role in resilience to climate change, a growing world population and increasing scarcity of food and water resources. The global population is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050, according to the UN Population Division.  Demand for food and water resources, especially in developing countries, will only increase in response.  If the world is to become more resilient to these challenges, creating an equilibrium between agricultural food production, water supply and local ecosystems is not only needed, but imperative for present and future generations.

Here are some examples of ecosystem services given in the report:

Connecting agriculture with ecosystem services can help reduce poverty due to rising food prices and also sustain the global water supply.  According to the report:

The recent rise in world food prices, which has driven over 110 million more people into poverty, is not an isolated event. Over the next several decades, food prices are predicted to rise by another 30-50% due to the inability of food production to keep up with growing demand (Nellemann et al. 2009).

Currently, 1.6 billion people live in areas of physical water scarcity and this could easily grow to 2 billion soon if we stay on the present course. With the same practices, increased urbanization and changing dietary patterns, the amount of water required for agriculture in terms of evapotranspiration would increase from 7,130 km3 today to 70-90% more (which is between 12,050 and 13,500 km3) to feed 9 billion people by 2050 (CA 2007).

This diagram from the report shows how managing water for agroecosystems can lead to environmental sustainability and resilience:

This report contains a great deal about how to manage agriculture and ecosystems to benefit people throughout the world and has much to say about creating more resilient communities through ecological practice.

The full report is available from the International Water Management Institute: http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Topics/Ecosystems/index.aspx

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