In addition to the plenary meetings of the Fourteenth Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) are so-called ‘side events’ which give organizations the opportunity to further discuss some of the issues that are on the agenda. Dr Emmanuel Mwendera from IUCN’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, reports from an event on ‘Water, biodiversity, ecosystems and sustainable development post-2010’.
Thomas Chiramba of the United Nations Environment Programme, David Coates of the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat and Nick Davison of Ramsar, gave presentations which covered some of the key elements of the linkages of inland water, biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation. They also discussed the linkages of inland water management to sustainable development.
One of the issues raised was the importance of translating ecosystem services into economic terms. Examples were given where a price was put on the value of ecosystem services, showing that they generally have a much higher monetary value than we often afford them.
The presentation also covered the impact of water quality on ecosystems services. We often focus on water quantity and not quality. However, it has been demonstrated that deterioration of water quality impacts negatively on aquatic biodiversity and reduces the economic value of ecosystem services. Various solutions were put forward as to how the quality of water can be controlled. One important message which came across was that we manage people who influence ecosystems and not ecosystems per se.
The links between water and ecosystems were also explored. David Coates argued that water is the key to achieving all the millennium development goals. Sustained access to safe water for drinking and food production is one of the keys to eradication of poverty and achieving universal primary education. He also said that, according to 2009 World Economic Forum, “water is the potential threat and constraint to economic growth”.
Nick Davidson reiterated the Ramsar slogan of “Healthy wetlands, healthy people”. He also emphasized that wetlands that store and sequestrate carbon hold the answer to the problem of climate change. He said there is need for clear policies, strategies and plans for managing water ecosystems and the associated biodiversity.