New ecosystem risk assessments for an egyptian ecosystem and for the Czech Republic now published and available online.
The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is a source of information meant to facilitate the implementation of conservation strategies and policies, natural resource use and conservation decisions. The continued success of RLE as a global standard depends on the world nation’s willingness to use this methodology when assessing the state of their ecosystems as a way to maximize the effectiveness of sustainable management plans.
Past April, researchers from the Alexandria University (Egypt) published an RLE assessment for Lake Burullus, while in May the Czech Republic completed their national Red List of Habitats following the IUCN RLE guidelines.
Egypt: Lake Burullus under pressure
Lake Burullus - north of the Nile Delta in Egypt - is a highly productive wetland ecosystem, Ramsar site and International Bird Area (IBA). However, the lake suffers from deteriorated environmental conditions due to poorly-managed activities and practices such as; agricultural activities, land reclamation, aquaculture, and pollution -- all of which have diminished the ecosystem’s integrity and the quality of its provided goods and services. Results from the RLE assessment “Assessing risk of collapse of Lake Burullus Ramsar site in Egypt using IUCN Red List of Ecosystems” listed Lake Burullus as Critically Endangered (CR).
The RLE assessment identified nutrient discharge as the ecosystem’s main pressure (97% of the lake’s annual water inflow comes from an untreated mix of agriculture wastewater, fish farm discharge, and upstream sewage effluent), and emphasized the need to counter its subsequent threatening processes:
- Eutrophication: Due to the high concentration of nutrient inputs (phosphorus in particular), Lake Burullus is currently considered to be a highly eutrophic system. This encourages fast growth of dominant species such as reeds, which clog waterways; and algae, which promote algal blooms that increase water turbidity and disrupt the food chain’s balance.
- Changes in water chemistry and quality: Lake Burullus used to be a brackish lagoon (its water had more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater). However due to the massive discharge of polluted freshwater that is directly released into the lake; salinity has decreased over time and changed the composition of the ecosystem biotic communities. This includes the decline or disappearance of many high-valued marine fish species.
Through the application of the IUCN RLE protocol, experts aimed to help in monitoring Lake Burullus’ future status, as well as prioritizing conservation measures and sustainable management actions in the region. Assessment recommendations included:
- Development of strategic plans to reverse the current threats on the lake’s biotic life (discharge of nutrient-enriched effluents, spread of aquatic reeds and establishment of aquaculture ponds, etc.)
- Regular monitoring of key variables identified through the ecosystem risk assessment.
- Application of RLE assessments on other wetlands of Egypt to prevent further degradation of wetland ecosystems.
Czech Republic: The status of natural habitats in the Czech Republic continues to deteriorate
The Czech Republic completed its second nationwide habitat type threat status evaluation by using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) global standard methodology for the first time. According to Prof. Milan Chytrý of Masaryk University, the Red List of Habitats of the Czech Republic “includes more habitat types than those currently subject to legal protection in the EU” and is meant to provide a new tool for managing the conservation and restoration of the European land and sea. The project, modeled after the European Red List of Habitats, was founded by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic and counted with support from both the Czech Science Foundation and the Czech Academy of Sciences.
A total of 17 experts assessed 157 habitat types across the country. Habitat types were divided into 8 main groups: Streams and water bodies, Wetlands and riverine vegetation, Springs and mires, Cliffs, screes and caves, Alpine treeless habitats, Secondary grasslands and heathlands, Scrub, and Forests. The highest proportion of Critically Endangered (CR) and Endangered (EN) habitats in the country were found in the assessment groups Springs and mires (66.7%) and in the Wetlands and riverine vegetation (52.7%). Experts agree that more than half of the Czech Republic’s lakes, rivers, and coastal habitats are threatened.
Emphasis was made on land-use changes being the most important threatening factor for the nation’s habitats. This includes the drying out of wetlands and mires due to decreasing precipitation, the increasing evapotranspiration and the increase in temperatures. Higher temperatures might also encourage shrubs and trees of warmer climate to encroach on alpine treeless habitats.
Water is a scarce resource (the world’s freshwater supply is dwindling, for instance), and given the current global state of affairs, all countries should do their best to keep aquatic ecosystems as pristine as possible. This should not deter stakeholders from making use of this natural resource, but rather be a factor that further promotes the use of tools such as the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems to monitor ecosystem health. Expanding the global coverage of RLE assessments is key to obtain the data that will make it possible to establish stronger policies and maximize the conservation impacts of threatened ecosystems management plans.
Written by: Clara Gómez
Style & format: Lila García and Clara Gómez
Provita Jun 28, 2019