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BioFresh policy briefs: biodiversity-conscious priority setting

November 15, 2013
Image Source: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image Source: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Prior to the EU strategic dialogue workshop on the science-policy interface being held this week, participants (including BioFresh) were asked to supply responses and proposals addressing key research needs identified by policy-makers. This will provide the focus for discussion as BioFresh and other participating organisations meet in Brussels for the workshop. Researchers and policy-makers will work together to identify ways to achieve better collaboration between EU-funded research projects and to direct research activities towards concrete policy needs, as well as helping communication at the science-policy interface. BioFresh is publishing its set of three policy briefs (Numbers 3, 4, and 5) on research and policy priorities for protecting freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity. These briefs present BioFresh’s contribution to the workshop and draw attention to the need for long-term, large-scale research into the full range of services that freshwater ecosystems provide. Freshwater ecosystems are under threat in the EU and freshwater biodiversity continues to decline, failing to meet the objectives of the Habitats and Water Framework Directives. This is in part because current policy focuses on provisioning services and basic, immediate human needs, such as energy production through hydropower, at the expense of freshwater habitats and species. Instead, the EU needs integrated policymaking with a long-term, holistic outlook to tackle the continuing loss of biodiversity and the conflict between resource development and biodiversity directives. The key points of the briefs are summarised below.

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‘By the Dam.’ Author: Vilseskogen (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Issue No. 3: Is biodiversity being left behind? Freshwater ecosystems hold unparalleled species diversity, but are amongst the most threatened in Europe. Prioritizing short-term, often localized benefits in ecosystem provisioning services (such as hydropower) is degrading habitats and damaging cultural and regulatory services such as carbon storage, making it impossible for Europe to meet policy goals under the Habitats and Water Framework Directives. The brief calls for ‘biodiversity-conscious priority setting,’ considering the full range of services that freshwater ecosystems provide, as well as improving the knowledge of ecosystems’ status and threats, to use EU funding resources to the greatest advantage.

Issue No. 4: Alleviating stress on freshwater biodiversity. Freshwater ecosystems in Europe need stronger protection, having been neglected in recent conservation activity. Major stressors are the continuing modification of rivers for hydropower installations, as well as massive abstraction of water in the Mediterranean and the uncontrolled spread of invasive species, which to some extent result from misled or incoherent policy. Aligning policy on agriculture, water, energy, biodiversity, and other related issues can help ease the pressure on freshwater systems, and will require wider participation from regional and local stakeholders.

Issue No. 5: The water-food-energy security nexus: Where do freshwater ecosystems fit in? Water has a ‘hybrid identity’ as both a medium for all life and a resource for humanity. Policy-makers need to look beyond the current focus on providing basic human needs, such as food and security, to considering all human needs, including cultural, aesthetic and cognitive needs. This requires large-scale design experiments and research on water-dependent sectors as well as communication and engagement to reframe public perceptions of water.

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