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This Week in PubHub: Environment: Water/Marine Resources

April 15, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she highlighted several reports that examine how women's roles, both inside and outside the family, are changing and shaping the definition of family itself.)

While discussions of water-related issues in the philanthropic sector tend to focus on the urgent need to improve access to clean water and mitigate the consequences of global climate change in the developing world, the management of water and marine resources in developed countries also has an impact on climate change effects, biodiversity, and the economic vitality of local communities. Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, for instance, has been forced to dump water contaminated with low-level radiation into the sea-- an emergency measure with potentially harmful long-term consequences. This week in PubHub, we look at reports that examine the need to protect and invest in the environmental, economic, and cultural benefits of the planet's vital water and marine resources.

Concern about damage to coral reefs is hardly new; indeed, the World Resources Institute has published a series of reports on reef degradation in the CaribbeanSoutheast Asia, and other regions. In its latest report, Reefs at Risk Revisited (130 pages, PDF), WRI uses updated data and satellite imagery to map and analyze threats to coral reefs from global climate change effects as well as human activities and notes that threat levels rose dramatically between 1997 and 2007. The damage from overfishing, coastal development, tourism, agricultural runoff, and shipping are compounded by rising ocean temperatures and acidification from carbon dioxide emissions, the report warns, resulting in reduced areas of living coral, increased algal cover, and lower species diversity and fish abundance. Funded by the Roy Disney Family Foundation, the report calls for more effective conservation efforts and steps to mitigate threats at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

The lakes, rivers, wetlands, and peatlands that comprise Canada's vast boreal forest not only help maintain global biodiversity and provide food and cultural benefits to indigenous rural communities in Canada, they also mitigate global climate change effects, a new report from the Pew Environment Group argues. A Forest of Blue -- Canada's Boreal Forest, the World's Waterkeeper (76 pages, PDF) explains how the expanse of forest and bodies of water produce a significant cooling effect while also increasing regional humidity and precipitation, which helps stabilize global temperatures. But Canada's boreal forests are also vulnerable to the effects of mining, oil and gas extraction, forestry, hydropower, and other industrial activities. Indeed, while 12 percent of the boreal forest in Canada is protected, the report recommends additional measures, including the conservation of the entire Mackenzie River watershed.

Valuing the Puget Sound Basin: Revealing Our Best Investments 2010 (102 pages, PDF), a report from Earth Economics, argues for shifting investments from activities that damage the Puget Sound ecosystem to activities that enhance and sustain that ecosystem, including such things as environmental restoration, stormwater retention, green building programs, and improved industrial processes. Funded by the Russell Family Foundation and Social Venture Kids, the report estimates the economic value of ecosystem goods and services provided by the Puget Sound Basin, including drinking water, abundant wildlife, climate regulation, flood protection, and recreation, and calls for further analysis and research to inform public and private investment in the region.

The Public Policy Institute of California report Managing California's Water: From Conflict to Reconciliation (503 pages, PDF) outlines the urgent need to reform the state's management policies with respect to fish and aquatic ecosystems, flood risk management, source quality protection, water supply management, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of the state's water supply network. Inaction on any of these fronts, the report argues, could result in the disappearance of native species, an increased likelihood of catastrophic floods, water shortages and degraded water quality, and the decline of the Delta region as a productive ecosystem, with potentially severe economic losses. Funded by the David and Lucile Packard, Pisces, and S. D. Bechtel, Jr. foundations; the Resources Legacy Fund; and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, the report calls for federal and state leadership in reconciling environmental and economic objectives, implementing new approaches to those objectives, and managing water as a public commodity.

What are your thoughts about protecting water and marine resources as a way to secure not only environmental sustainability but economic prosperity? Has your state or region developed creative or innovative approaches to the issue? And what are some of the obstacles preventing us from changing our relationship to these vital resources? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse nearly 350 reports related to the environment and environmental issues.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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