Securing clean water is becoming increasingly difficult in the United States. Infrastructure like dams and treatment plants are aging, water demand is increasing, and more frequent extreme weather events like wildfires and flooding are driving up the cost of water management.
It’s a complex problem, but one of the potential solutions is decidedly low-tech: Invest in nature.
Many nations struggle with how to manage and protect their natural resources—resources that are frequently the source of significant biological and economic value. Russia can better protect its important nature conservation areas, thanks to a new map and data set developed by WRI and Global Forest Watch Russia. This map provides the most comprehensive view of all of Russia’s federal-level protected areas. Now, the Ministry for Natural Resources can better monitor activities where logging and mining is allowed, and stop activities in pristine and protected areas. Already, Megatron, a Russian oil company, has changed the boundaries of its drilling concession where they overlapped a protected area.
Lack of information and transparency, and often widespread corruption, result in ineffectual governance and destruction of critical ecosystems. With assistance from WRI’s Global Forest Watch Team, the Cameroon Ministry of Forests and Wildlife is now using an interactive forestry atlas developed by WRI and its partners. The atlas is the most effective source of forestry information available in Cameroon. With it, the country can monitor forest activities and manage its forest concession allocations. It is a powerful tool for fighting illegal logging.
Degradation of ecosystems threatens human lives and prosperity, and yet little was known about the state of global ecosystems before WRI launched the idea of a first-ever scientific audit of the health of the world’s ecosystems. WRI helped catalyze a four-year, $25 million effort called the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that involved more than 1,300 scientists and other experts from 95 countries. Managed under the auspices of the United Nations and completed in 2005, its findings provide powerful data about ecosystems that will inform and direct policies, research, and investments by governments, NGOs, and business. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calls the Millennium Assessment “an outstanding example of the sort of international scientific and political cooperation that is needed to further the cause of sustainable development.”
WRI’s international Global Forest Watch (GFW) network now maps ninety percent of the world’s primary forests. Companies, governments, and environmental groups worldwide use our maps and expertise to reconcile conservation and development needs. The Russian environmental group SPOK, for example, relied on WRI’s boreal maps in its negotiations with Karellesprom, a major logging company, to spare an unprotected section of one of Europe’s last remaining primary forests. The Forest Stewardship Council–a globally recognized label for sustainable forest management—is using GFW maps across Canada and Russia to ensure that certified companies take proper account of large forests. Forest companies doing business in boreal forest regions are now guided by GFW maps.
Traditional strategies for reducing rural poverty too often ignore the environment. WRI, the World Bank, the U.N. Environment Programme, and the U.N. Development Programme have developed a new model, an ecosystems-based approach that details how effective management of environmental and social resources can result in an improved standard of living. The concept, proposed through WRI’s flagship publication World Resources 2005: The Wealth of the Poor–Managing Ecosystems to Fight Poverty is gaining traction. Governments and international organizations, including the European Union, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., USAID, and The World Conservation Union are making substantial new commitments to invest in sustainable ecosystem development and incorporating the concept into their rural poverty reduction programs.
The Amazon is a precious natural resource subject to significant human pressures. Identifying these pressures and understanding how they are related is critical for successful forest management. Traditional forest assessments look at only one or two pressures at a time, such as logging and agriculture. That isn’t enough. WRI and its Brazilian partner Imazon have created a new set of forest maps that include the impacts of civic construction projects, human settlements, fires, and mining operations on the Amazon, thereby providing a more complete picture. We believe these “human pressure” maps will guide better policy decisions. Already, Brazil has used these maps and analysis to establish federally protected areas and state forests, setting aside 9.5 million hectares of important intact rainforest.
If you want to know how to grow crops in the face of climate change, drought, and land degradation, ask Ousséni Kindo, Ousséni Zoromé, or Yacouba Sawadogo—three farmers in Burkina Faso’s Yatenga region.
Policy makers, researchers, and NGO representatives gathered earlier this year at a workshop in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to discuss strategies on combating food insecurity and adapting to climate change. Attendees at the event—organized by the group Network for Participatory Approaches to Research and Planning (Réseau MARP Burkina)—heard from several of Burkina Faso’s farmers on how they produce food on degraded lands. The farmers and participants provided interesting insights into climate-smart agriculture methods—including how to scale up these practices throughout the nation.
The government of Nova Scotia announced an ambitious plan earlier this month to protect 245,000 hectares of forest and park land, establishing the Canadian province as a conservation leader in one of the world’s most heavily forested nations. Roughly 14 percent of all land in Nova Scotia will now be legally protected from development, making it the province with the second-highest percentage of land devoted to protected areas in Canada, after British Columbia.
This news is significant for conservationists and for the vast number of Canadians who depend on these forests for clean air, water, and a bounty of other resources. It also illustrates a powerful truth: precise, science-based maps are an essential component of good forest management and planning.
Indonesia’s Kalimantan Province on the island of Borneo is a resource rich region subject to forest fires that regularly break out during dry spells because of the spread of illegal land-clearing fires. Indonesia is the fourth largest global emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, and forest fires are a significant contributor to these emissions. A new “fire atlas” produced by WRI, its local partners, and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry is helping the government do a better job of monitoring fires and land clearing, thereby enabling the government to shift money and resources to at-risk protected areas. The next step is a fire atlas for the entire country.