Ecosystem services: the best hope for aquatic conservation?

Posted on July 20, 2015

In an editorial in the journal Aquatic Conservation, S.J. Ormerod offers a perspective on key themes, challenges and new opportunities for river conservation. In recent years a range of policy and legal instruments have been introduced to protect river ecosystems. While these changes are delivering real benefits, they also have weaknesses. For example, although the EC Water Framework requires European states to protect or restore good ecological condition, it focusses more on ecological status than on the processes and pressures that affect conservation. Also relevant is the fact that many world powers see environmentalism as a barrier to economic activity and are loathe to champion conservation
on ethical grounds. Against this background, the concept of ecosystem services – with its focus on the human values and benefits of ecosystems – offers a way of re-engaging the State sector through conservation partnerships with water companies, businesses, local communities and NGOs. The advantages of the ecosystem approach are particularly strong in the case of rivers, which provide clear examples of different types of services, the downstream costs of poor stewardship, and the strong links between ecological quality, biodiversity, and social justice.

Reference: Ormerod, S.J. 2014. Rebalancing the philosophy of river conservation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 24, 147–152.