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Integrating biodiversity conservation and water development: in search of long‐term solutions

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Fresh water, a resource necessary for most life on Earth, currently experiences impacts that reduce both water quality and quantity. These impacts compromise human wellbeing and threaten the existence of many nonhuman species, the latter including freshwater biodiversity as well as other species requiring water to survive. In response, development and conservation professionals strive to ensure that adequate fresh water is available for people and other organisms. Here we examine the need to coordinate efforts in these two areas of intervention to ensure long‐term success for both. We begin by discussing how places needing water development and biodiversity conservation tend to be located in the same parts of the world, suggesting that projects in each subject area may well co‐occur. We then summarize briefly the current challenges facing water development and freshwater‐related biodiversity conservation, as well as the main approaches to address those challenges. The study examines potential strategies to provide improved access to water for both people and nature through integrated water resources management and less formal approaches to avoiding unintended impacts of one activity on the other. Example projects reveal several benefits of linking development and biodiversity conservation efforts to maintain water resources. The study closes by arguing for the need to coordinate water development and biodiversity conservation activities in a manner that seeks practical synchronized solutions for particular project settings. WIREs Water 2016, 3:301–311. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1142

This article is categorized under:

  • Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
  • Engineering Water > Planning Water
Percent of population with access to improved drinking water, by country, 2015 (a) and United Nations Development Index, by country, 2013 (b). Geographic information system datasets developed by lead author.
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Conceptual diagram showing independent water development and biodiversity conservation projects (a) and projects that become partially integrated in the interest of seeking separate solutions that consider impacts on the other area of engagement (b).
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Distribution of amphibian species (a), freshwater crab, crayfish, and shrimp species (b), and mammal species (c). Geographic information system datasets obtained from IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical‐documents/spatial‐data.
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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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