May 28, 2012

Managing Water in Agroecosystems for Multiple Services

The reliance upon water for the many services ecosystems provide, forms the basis for a recent report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).  Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Servicesproduced by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), argues for a broader approach to agricultural water management that accounts for ecosystem services.  Such benefits include water regulation and purification, pollination, erosion control, nutrient management, cooling, habitat, and other supporting and regulating ecosystem services performed by wetlands and forests.

Recommendations of the report center around upholding people’s livelihoods while continuing to produce adequate food and supporting ecosystem health, primarily within a landscape context. Drawing from analysis at a variety of spatial scales, the report covers multifunctionality of an agricultural landscapes and the provision of multiple ecosystem services, putting it in a unique and apt position to add to the knowledge base of the Landscapes Initiative. These recommendations moving forward include:

  • Encourage water and land resource managers to explore the ecosystem service gains and tradeoffs in their own local contexts, such as watersheds, landscapes, countries, or basins.
  • For livestock, adopt techniques that provide for both ecosystem services and livelihoods, including rotating livestock herds, using manure fertilizer, managing crop residues for livestock feed and choosing climate-appropriate breeds and size of herds.
  • Include regulating and supporting ecosystem services (eg. water purification, disease regulation) in local and regional water management agendas.
  • Mimic natural water storage water management so agricultural water remains linked with the surrounding landscapes.
  • Integrate forestry into water management efforts to ensure the value of forest ecosystems are accounted for in landscape water use.
  • Expand Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) practices to manage water productivity for ecosystem services in various landscape uses, such as livestock grazing.

Case studies from Africa and Asia provide concrete illustrations for how pressure on a limited resource like water can be managed in a way that benefits both agro-ecosystems and ‘downstream’ ecosystem services.

Read the media release for the report online.

More In in Staying Current

Comments are closed.