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Ecosystem services: Understanding riverine ecosystems and their contribution to human well-being

27 / Feb / 2020Risk Assessments

Ecosystem services: Understanding riverine ecosystems and their contribution to human well-being

Healthy and sustainable riverine ecosystems, an example of ecosystem services!

Understanding the flow of goods and services provided by river ecosystems, and how human activity affects this process has become essential to ensure long-term sustainable development. The maintenance of air quality, climate regulation, flood control and storm protection are part of some of the ecosystem services provided by river ecosystems.

These ecosystems play an important role in terms of the benefits they provide, as they participate in:

  • The regulation of hydrological flows.

  • The reduction of the impact of landslides and floods.

  • The reduction of soil erosion and influence its conservation,

  • The Improvement of water quality and maintenance of aquatic habitats.

  • The creation of areas for settlements, infrastructure, production and recreation, which gives these ecosystems a cultural and aesthetic value in society.

Despite the countless benefits that river ecosystems bring, today they are among the most threatened on the planet. The increasing use of land and associated channeling (dams and hydroelectric plants) have led to the deterioration of the functions and services of these river landscapes.

It is essential to raise public awareness about the importance of maintaining hydrological basins in good condition. This will ensure the sustainability of global river ecosystems in the future; therefore, it is necessary to invest in the dissemination of the contributions offered by these ecosystems.

The use of integrated and participatory diagnostic and planning tools, based on ecology, is a fundamental component for the recovery of these areas. This is why the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) has great value in assessing the degradation of these ecosystems, and in this way provide stronger alliances and policies for a stronger management of threatened ecosystems. For example, the RLE assessments (River red gum and black box floodplains, South-eastern Australia, and Wetlands of the Lake Eyre Basin, Australia) provided recommendations on the proper management of these river ecosystems.

The growth in global coverage of RLE assessments and the increase of community knowledge about ecosystem services are key elements to maximize the conservation efforts of river ecosystems.

Written by: Mariana Hernandez

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