Can Micronesia Save Its Reefs By Fixing Its Ridges?
People across the western Pacific archipelagos of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia have long enjoyed the sedating effects of a leafy plant called sakau. Beverages made from the root are said to keep people mellow without putting them to sleep, but the plant’s cultivation has taken a toll on the land.
“It’s not super-intensive farming, but sakau doesn’t hold the soil to the same degree as the undergrowth it replaces,” says Steven Victor, a region-wide planner for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). “From the air it looks like old growth forest, but it’s gone underneath.” And where it’s gone is into streams and tributaries, in the form of sediment and excess fertilizer. From there, it seeped into mangrove forests and sea-grass beds before leeching out into the ocean and suffocating coral reefs.
The "Micronesia Challenge" consortium, which includes The Nature Conservancy and Rare Conservation, is now investigating payments for watershed services as a viable method of protecting these marine ecosystems. But the situation in Micronesia has one element making it an unusual situation for PWS. Normally for PWS schemes to work, polluters funnel money towards conservation efforts. In Micronesia, the farmers causing the environmental damage are also the fisherman suffering from it.
– Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Study Says Bad Environmental Policy Turns Nations Into Credit Risks
Environmental degradation creates credit risk for nations.
That was the simple, but key finding of a new study orchestrated by the Global Footprint Network and UNEP-FI. E-RISC (Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credit), A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk has factored in ecological risks when accounting for a country to pay its debts. “I think it’s fair to say that traditional sovereign credit risk analysis inadequately reflects pressures from environmental risks-particularly pressures from growing global natural resource scarcity, environmental degradation and vulnerability to climate change impact,” says Richard Burnett, co-chair of UNEP FI.
– Learn more.
US & Mexico Reach Deal for Cooperating on Colorado River Management and Restoration
After years of negotiation against a backdrop of ever-present water scarcity, US and Mexican officials have signed off on an agreement for managing the Colorado River basin cooperatively. The deal, known as Minute 319, sets out a framework over five years for coordinating between the two countries on water-sharing agreements. It also allows for cross-border financing of water-saving projects and requires water users in both countries to allocate water to maintain instream flows in the Basin. That complements existing efforts by the Sonoran Institute, ProNatura Noroeste, and the Environmental Defense Fund to buy water rights in Mexico and keep the water instream to protect the river's aquatic and riparian habitats. Francisco Zamora of the Sonoran Institute says the hope is that enough water will be returned to support more than 800 hectares of wetlands in the Colorado River Delta, where the river famously has failed to reach the sea in recent years.
– Learn more at Circle of Blue.
Murray-Darling Basin Plan Emerges From the Debate Bruised but Official
Australian legislators finally agreed on passing into law what just might be the most divisive environmental bill in the nation’s history. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan will pour 3200 billion liters into the river system by 2024, which surpasses the amount the Murray-Darling Basin Authority said was needed but doesn’t meet environmental scientists’ quota of 4000 GL. Enough water will be restored to the river to fill five Sydney Harbors. The added water will flush out salt and keep salinity levels out of danger zones.
While the law didn’t please everyone - Greens Water says the Plan will not restore the Murray-Darling - the federal and state government support the legislation and independents in Parliament have said they will support the Plan into law after the Christmas break. Australia’s Environment Minister Tony Burke, said, “the ink is now on the page, the law is now in place and the Murray-Darling Basin will be restored to health.”
– Read more here.
EU Blueprint Water Strategy Released
The Environment Commission of the European Union has launched a Blueprint to save Europe’s water resources, focusing on agriculture and energy production water and water pollution, with an eye to solutions that meet the needs of people, companies and the environment. The Blueprint lays out a three-tier approach to solve these problems: improving implementation of current EU water policies, increasing integration between sectors that have an interest in water policies, and filling in gaps in the current framework such as providing tools needed to increase water efficiency. The Blueprint highlights that protecting Europe’s water resources is also about economic prosperity as well as the environment, human well-being and health.
– Read more at Environmental Expert.
Meanwhile New South Wales Threatens to Cap Buybacks
With the Australian government likely to approve the Murray Darling Basin Plan after the Christmas break, New South Wales is already promising to cap water buybacks (wherein water rights are bought by the government and left in the river to support ecological health) at a rate of 3% per valley per decade, if their concerns about groundwater sustainable diversion limits aren’t addressed before the holiday break. NSW Primaries Industries is saying the federal government needs to pay out on already approved water projects before implementing the new Plan.
– Get the full story.
New Water Bill Calls for Ecological Infrastructure, Post-Sandy
It's lame-duck time again in Washington DC, with legislators alternately rushing to pass bills before the holidays and seemingly not doing much at all. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says she's in the first camp: she's pushing to get the Water Resources Development Act through Congress. The bill lays out priorities for the Army Corps of Engineers, and it's got climate risk and green infrastructure all over it: there's language on restoring coastal wetlands and other ecosystems as buffers against storm events, as well as a section instructing the Corps to consider water resources management in the event of severe floods or droughts.
– Read a summary at Circle of Blue.
– Read the draft bill.
Two For the Price of One: Carbon Credits Meet Watershed Benefits in Maine
The Manomet Center's Clear Water Carbon Fund saw more than 500 trees go in the ground last month in Maine's Sebago Lake Watershed. The fund markets carbon credits that come with watershed benefits; projects are chosen that maximize multiple ecosystem services like sediment trapping, riparian shade to cool water, wildlife habitat, and of course, carbon sequestration. These trees are expected to remove more than 285,000 lbs of carbon from the atmosphere over their lifetimes.
– Read a press release.
Water-Smart Trade on a Water-Scarce Planet?
As the planet’s fresh water supply continues to grow scarcer, analysts are examining the virtual water theory that links trade and water in terms of nations with large fresh water endowments should be exporting water-intensive products while countries will smaller supplies of water should export in goods requiring less water in their production. A sizable portion of the world struggles with water scarcity-China, Pakistan, India, parts of the Middle East and Africa-and could benefit from a higher level of water efficiency in trade.
The virtual water perspective requires much more research before it can be applied to water policies as there are political, economical and geographical reasons that drive international trade. Indonesia may have an ample supply of fresh water, for example, but lacks arable land. Food has been exported out of China’s dry regions for centuries into areas with more water resources for political reasons. While the virtual water theory does oversimplify a very complex situation, it can serve as an useful communication tool.
– Learn more.
Introducing Carbon Markets Lowers Nutrient Prices, New Zealand Study Finds
Carbon and nutrient trading can be complementary when it comes to agricultural approaches, according to a new study in New Zealand's Lake Roturua catchment. A new study led by doctoral candidate Boon-Ling Yeo of UC Davis and New Zealand's Motu Economic and Public Policy Research found that greenhouse gas emissions are lower when carbon trading is introduced alongside a nutrient market, thanks to better nitrogen management. Meanwhile, nitrogen credit prices tend to decline. A nutrient trading program is in development for Lake Rotorua; New Zealand also has developed a nation-wide emissions trading scheme.
– Read more.
Webinar: Getting Started on Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Retrofits
Green infrastructure and stormwater retrofits can present an array challenges stemming from variable costs and performance and stakeholder coordination. Uncertainty and complexity can hinder even highly motivated communities from finding and taking advantage of cost effective opportunities to improve infrastructure and water quality. This webinar, organized by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, will present strategies that have helped others reduce such challenges to a manageable level. 18 December 2012. Online.
– Learn more and register.
5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER)
Join us at NCER '13 for four days of presentations in multiple program tracks, workshops, plenary sessions, poster sessions, field trips and coffee-house discussions dedicated to current topics in ecosystem restoration. We’ll explore the roles of policy, planning, science and management in establishing goals and performance expectations for achieving successful and sustainable ecosystem restoration. 29 July - 2 August, 2013. Greater Chicago, IL, USA.
– Learn more here.