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The LIVING RIVERS Foundation: Protecting our natural river ecosystems

June 27, 2013

In this latest addition to our ecosystem services special feature, we highlight the LIVING RIVERS Foundation, an organisation that is working to protect and promote the amazing array of ecosystem services that our rivers provide.

Fishing boats on the Niger River Delta. Photo: Living Earth.

Fishing boats on the Niger River Delta. Photo: Living Earth.

Rivers are a key part of our landscape. In their natural form they are a source of beauty. They provide us with places of recreation and they host a great variety of fascinating freshwater plants and animals. However, natural river landscapes are under threat from pollution and changes in land use. In addition, all over the world rivers are straightened, embanked and backed-up. As a result diverse river systems become homogeneous, wetlands disappear and water birds, fish, amphibians and other water depending organisms become fewer or even extinct.

Logo_LivingRiversThe LIVING RIVERS Foundation is a small and young non-governmental organisation that is working protect our natural river landscapes and help rehabilitate degraded rivers. They do so by gathering, developing and exchanging information around river ecology and management. The intention is to network and bring experts, professionals and all those who feel committed to healthy river ecosystems together. They conduct event that bring people together, develop online educational material, and produce policy papers to influence the political discussion on river ecosystem conservation.

The LIVING RIVERS Foundation are currently focusing on the topic of ecosystem services of rivers. Lisa Schülting from the foundation told BioFresh that ‘as a small NGO we want to bring those experts together to address crucial scientific and political questions about [the ecosystem services of rivers].” “Which are the actual benefits of a natural ecosystem? Which services of a river may be monetised? What are the costs for the society if natural river processes and functions are altered? And can the concept be used to measure sustainability of a river? And, finally, which benefits are gained by river restorations and how can the concept be helpful regarding the Water Framework Directive, where might be conflicts?” asks Ms. Schülting.

Lisa Schülting from the LIVING RIVERS Foundation

Lisa Schülting from the LIVING RIVERS Foundation

Earlier this year, the LIVING RIVERS Foundation hosted a workshop discussing these and other questions with researchers and experts from governmental and non-governmental organisations working in this field. According to Schülting, the main findings of the workshop were that “the [ecosystem services] concept can help people to understand the importance of river protection. It won’t substitute other concepts, but will serve as an additional communication instrument. The concept can be helpful to show how valuable natural river ecosystems are and what costs society has to carry if they get destroyed.” In addition, Schülting believes that in the context of the Water Framework Directive, the ecosystem services concept “might offer the option to better understand the services lost if there is a deterioration from a good status. However, a lot of open questions have to be answered.”

Based on the outcomes of the workshop the Foundation will host a symposium on ecosystem services of rivers on October 23-24 with approximately 100 researchers and professionals to participate. You can find out more about the LIVING RIVERS Foundation and their work on their website and for any questions or suggestions you can contact them at info@living-rivers.org.

Read other articles in our Special Feature on Freshwater Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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