Pay more attention to forests to avert global water crisis, researchers urge

  • According to a new report, the growing human population and climate change are exacerbating a looming global water crisis that has already hit home in places like Australia’s Murray Darling basin — but the crisis could potentially be averted if humans paid more attention to the links between forests and water.
  • Despite the links between the global climate, forests, people, and water, international bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have tended to view carbon sequestration as the chief role of forests and trees.
  • Report co-editor Meine van Noordwijk, chief scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Indonesia and a professor of agroforestry at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, warns that we ignore the importance of water in the climate debate at our own peril.
Riparian vegetation and landscape in Mongolia, a country where freshwater resources are scarce. © Alexander Buck.Riparian vegetation and landscape in Mongolia, a country where freshwater resources are scarce. © Alexander Buck.

Riparian vegetation and landscape in Mongolia, a country where freshwater resources are scarce. © Alexander Buck.

Australia’s Murray Darling basin covers more than a million square kilometers, 14 percent of the country’s landmass. It’s the site of tens of thousands of wetlands, but increasing demand for water has stretched its resources to the limit.

Many of the basin’s wetlands and floodplain forests are declining — several former wetlands and forests have even been consumed by bushfires, which are becoming more frequent every year. Yet when Australian officials sought to introduce strict water allocation rules, they met with fierce resistance from farmers in the region who depend on irrigation for their livelihood.

This is just one example of the ongoing conflicts over ecological water allocations featured in a new report released by the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, an initiative led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). Read more

 

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