The 22nd of May commemorates the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), a global celebration that aims increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
Th theme this year is ‘Water and Biodiversity’ – chosen to coincide with the United Nations designation of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation. The linkages between water and biodiversity speak to the important role of biodiversity and ecosystems in providing for water security, and therefore for sustainable development.
“Where once the focus was on trade-offs between water use and biodiversity, today we are coming to understand how biodiversity and water security are mutually reinforcing. This shift from conflict to synergy is particularly welcome in this, the International Year of Water Cooperation.” Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
Ecosystems regulate the availability of water, and its quality. Ecosystem degradation therefore increases water insecurity. There is a clear need to conserve and restore ecosystems to help achieve water security and enjoy the many other benefits provided by healthy and optimally functioning ecosystems.
Without ecosystems, the water cycle, and dependent carbon and nutrient cycles, would be significantly altered. Yet policies and decisions do not sufficiently take into account the interconnections and interdependencies, nor utilise these as solutions.
Examples of significant opportunities to use ecosystems to manage water include: improving the health of soils and land cover in farming landscapes to simultaneously achieve water security for food security and reduce off-farm impacts, including reducing water use, pollution, erosion and landslides; integrating natural infrastructure approaches into urban water management to achieve sustainable and secure cities; using wetlands, such as floodplains, coastal marshes and estuaries, to increase resilience to natural disasters; managing landscapes, such as forests, to sustain drinking water supplies; and reducing the risks from, and severity of, floods and drought.
Conserving or restoring ecosystems to manage water also delivers significant co-benefits. For example: wetlands can help regulate water but can also support significant fisheries; restoring soils can help achieve more productive agriculture and sustainable food security; forests provide timber and non-timber resources and habitat for pollinators and wildlife; improved landscapes provide significant recreational and cultural values. These benefits should be added to water-related benefits when considering returns on investments in water related infrastructure.