The UN 2023 Water Conference in New York set the stage for a global community united in its resolve to achieve ‘Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030’. With discussions spanning the UN Water stage and accompanying events like the New York Water Week, participants from multiple sectors shed light on various themes critical to realizing sustainable water security amid the changing climate. As Arcadians committed to sustainability and improving quality of life, we joined in the discussions, sharing insights from our water resilience projects. Here’s a reflection on the takeaways and areas we must consider together to propel the agenda.
1. Integrated and inclusive solutions: singularly focused on bridging water and humanity
The water crisis is more than a resource challenge; it’s a social crisis affecting billions worldwide.1 This critical issue was central to the discussions and events at the UN Water Conference. Marginalized groups, including women and girls who face specific issues related to hygiene and domestic pressures2, bear the brunt of the lack of clean water and sanitation services.
To ensure our water systems are inclusive in the long term, they must be affordable, safely managed, geographically accessible and adapted for disadvantaged groups.3 Projects like Resilient NJ in the US demonstrate the importance of involving marginalized communities in decision-making and implementation processes to ensure we’re truly meeting the needs of all community members when addressing climate resilience.
‘Systems thinking’ is also key. By recognizing the interconnectedness of water-related issues like resource sustainability, biodiversity impact and service accessibility, this approach promotes collaboration among utilities, governments, communities and other stakeholders to navigate competing values and make informed decisions.
For example, our Shelter team in Mozambique learned how floods in the area presented both risks and benefits to the community, helping the team to advise on solutions that protected residents and preserved livelihoods. In Cameroon, we learned that prohibiting activities along the Dibamba River would disconnect communities from their cultural connection to this important landmark. Given this, we collaborated on a permitting system that both promotes responsible engagement and helps preserve cultural ties.
WITH and FOR communities is what we do as Arcadians — from Local Sparks initiatives by our colleagues in their own hometowns, such as the Pumps for Life in the Philippines, to maximizing impact in countries with the most need for community support as seen in our Shelter missions in Mozambique, Cameroon and Kenya. It’s important to see the bigger picture to assess where we can make the biggest impact.
Global Shelter Program Manager and Senior Project Leader for Resilience
2. No one is an island: partnerships pay off
The water crisis is a complex puzzle that cannot be solved alone. Collaborative efforts such as public-private partnerships mobilize diverse talent, promote agile working frameworks and enable innovative finance structures to maximize outcomes. The 7 Square Endeavour in Rotterdam exemplifies the power of multi-stakeholder collaborations, serving as a groundbreaking success and inspiration for other cities with similar climate goals.
Universities and the tech sector also contribute significantly by developing the science and future capabilities for water optimization needs. This was evident in the Pratt Institute’s ‘Condensations, parts 01|02|03’ event participated by some of our leaders.
The Pratt Institute’s program, which included an AI workshop, was an absolute top session with students, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and local community groups. We shared our insights to prepare engineers for climate challenges, with many of the students showcasing the potential AI has to offer. I can’t stress enough the importance of these knowledge-sharing sessions in scaling our water solutions, while also equipping the next generation of professionals to find their calling in this important space. Our collective futures depend on it!
Arcadis Vice President, Director for Climate Adaptation North America
Leveraging tech capabilities to provide easy access to information is also key. Together We Walk, for example, is an app we developed collaboratively for the UNWC participants. Through an immersive experience, it offers insights into the history of New York’s water works. The app has been updated to include Water Talks, a podcast produced by the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and Water Management which features insightful conversations with key players in the water industry.
Together We Walk presents Water Talks
A podcast hosted by Tracy Metz and featured in the Arcadis Together We Walk app. Download it to start streaming.
Like so many cities, New York has done a phenomenal job over the last 50 years of reclaiming its waterfront. We are now very much a water-oriented city.
Chief Climate Officer of New York
3. Actionable data: making bigger waves of change
Data enables better predictability, communication, engagement and decision-making. The time is now to embrace tech innovations such as digital twins to accelerate a water-positive future.
Arcadis Global Director for Water Optimization
Data drives progress. To accelerate solutions, we must move beyond collecting raw data and focus on extracting actionable insights that guide immediate decision-making. Utilizing data analytics, as demonstrated by the Arcadis Non-Revenue Water Digital Twin platform, helps detect water infrastructure anomalies and prevent significant water loss. Similarly, the 50L Home coalition highlights the potential of water conservation and reuse, demonstrating how consuming just 50L per person per day can prevent water scarcity crises while still enabling a comfortable lifestyle.
We are working to bring the 50L vision to the Netherlands, where the narrative of water abundance is changing. Through collaborations with local players and sharing actionable insights, we aim to change behavioral choices to conserve and reuse water in households and businesses.
Arcadis Senior Director for Resilient Cities and UK Climate Adaption Lead
4. ‘Novel’ to ‘normal’: making nature-based solutions mainstream
Biodiversity serves as our most powerful defense against climate change, safeguarding our water supply. Nature-based solutions (NBS) that restore and enhance it, such as the Marker Wadden wetland restoration in the Netherlands, offer a way forward.
In some cases, NBS alone may not fully meet the requirements. Integrating green and gray infrastructure, as shown by the Living Breakwaters in New York, combines the strengths of natural and built structures to effectively mitigate storm waves. The benefits are manyfold, spanning economic, ecological and social aspects.
During our panel discussion hosted by Ecoshape, to which Arcadis has been a long-time partner, we highlighted the importance of projects like the Living Breakwaters to build resilience against major events like Superstorm Sandy. Coastal communities can learn from the enablers of this project to upscale NBS in their own areas: using a systems approach, applying familiar NBS concepts and driving public engagement and participation, to name a few.
Arcadis Global Director for Climate Adaptation
Urban coastal communities can also benefit from a circular water economy, as shown by the One Water project in Santa Monica Bay, California. By diverting urban runoff for treatment and reuse, this holistic strategy increases potable water supply, reduces public health threats through improved beach water quality and enhances resilience against weather extremes like heat waves.
And though steadily declining, mangroves and coral reefs, too, sequester substantial amounts of carbon and serve as buffers against storm surges. The need to restore these natural defenses cannot be overstated.
To scale up its implementation, we must change our mindsets about NBS and green-gray integrations from being a novelty into becoming the norm. Businesses, investors and water utility sectors must integrate these approaches into their planning and design considerations throughout project lifecycles.
5. Role of corporates in shaping the water future
As major water users4, corporations have a responsibility to tackle the water crisis. Reflecting on these key considerations in planning water-related projects will help create resilient and sustainable systems:
Partners for shared capabilities, finance models and approaches focused on equity and inclusion
Digital tools that provide actionable insights for efficient decision-making
A nature-based or integrated solution over usual business practices.
At Arcadis, we see concrete goals as a pathway to the possible. Echoing Global President for Resilience Heather Polinsky’s speech at the UN Water stage, we are committed to achieving gender balance and diversity within our workforce, with a target of 40% women and a focus on underrepresented minorities. We also commit to developing equity-focused frameworks that minimize environmental impacts on communities in every water project. What commitment will you be making?
The Water Environment Federation shares Arcadis’ passion for building a diverse workforce to sustainably solve water challenges to improve quality of life for all. No one entity has all the answers or solutions. By working together, we can impact real change.
Water Environment Federation President and Arcadis Senior Vice President, North America Wastewater and Water Sustainability Leader
Together, we want #ClimateAction
Realizing SDG 6 requires action from all fronts. Using digital tools to inform and shape positive perceptions, engaging marginalized groups in planning and implementation processes, and including the private sector in funding mechanisms all work toward more equitable and inclusive water solutions that deliver benefits for both people and planet.
There’s always a reason for pessimism in this world. But luckily, there is always a reason for optimism. And it’s a choice you can make as a human being, you can make as an organization or a coalition, and you can make as an institution or a politician. And that choice is on yourself.
Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Netherlands
Together, we talk. In our upcoming Thought Leadership Paper on Droughts and Water Scarcity, these lessons learned are further addressed considering the arguably greatest single current threat from climate change: droughts, often resulting in water scarcity. In this inspiring paper we talk with sector leaders, stakeholders, and experts on problems they face, best practices they apply and the attitude, leadership, and collaboration that is required for successful implementation.
Main author: Piet Dircke, Arcadis Global Director for Climate Adaptation
Weather volatility should not be considered the norm and certainly not in its extreme current trends worldwide. In the Middle East and North Africa region plagued by factors beyond climate, such as war, mismanagement or corruption, the environment as precipitations impacting its food production can play a prominent role in the region; the UAE turns to science to squeeze more rainfall from clouds. Let us see how Studies on rainmaking in the desert they can manage to bring about some micro-climate ‘change’ in their immediate environment. Will it, however, be a transboundary flying carpet of clouds?
Parched UAE turns to science to squeeze more rainfall from clouds
Hygroscopic flares are attached to an aircraft during a cloud seeding flight operated by the National Center of Meteorology, between Al Ain and Al Hayer, in United Arab Emirates, August 24, 2022. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
An explanatory hologram of the cloud seeding process is seen inside the control room at the National Center of Meteorology in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 24, 2022. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
ABU DHABI, Aug 30 (Reuters) – As a twin-turboprop aircraft takes off under the burning desert sun with dozens of salt canisters attached to its wings, United Arab Emirates meteorological official Abullah al-Hammadi scans weather maps on computers screens for cloud formations.
At 9,000 feet above sea level, the plane releases salt flares into the most promising white clouds, hoping to trigger rainfall.
“Cloud seeding requires the existence of rainy clouds, and this is a problem as it is not always the case,” said Hamadi, head of rain enhancement operations in the UAE’s National Centre for Meteorology.
The UAE, located in one of the hottest and driest regions on earth, has been leading the effort to seed clouds and increase precipitation, which remains at less than 100 millimetres (3.9 inches) a year on average.
The effects of climate change, combined with a growing population and economy diversifying into tourism and other areas have pushed up demand for water in the UAE, which has relied on expensive desalination plants that make use of seawater.
Officials say they believe cloud seeding can help. Scientists in Abu Dhabi combine shooting hygroscopic, or water-attracting, salt flares with releasing salt nanoparticles, a newer technology, into the clouds to stimulate and accelerate the condensation process and hopefully produce droplets big enough to then fall as rain.
“Cloud seeding increases rainfall rates by approximately 10% to 30% per year… According to our calculations, cloud seeding operations cost much less than the desalination process,” Hammadi said.
Cloud seeding flares are seen inside the control room at the National Center of Meteorology in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 24, 2022. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
Other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, have announced similar plans as they face historic droughts.
Edward Graham, a meteorologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Britain, said the salt used in cloud seeding in the UAE does not harm the environment.
“In terms of carbon footprint, planes that fly up into the clouds are just small planes, when compared to the billions of cars on the planet and the huge planes doing international air travel everyday, it’s just a drop in the ocean,” he added.
Pilots based at the UAE’s al-Ain airport have to be ready to take off at a moments notice, flying over the reddish-yellow desert before directing their aircraft into the clouds located on the meteorologists’ screens.
“Cloud seeding is considered the second hardest challenge for pilots,” said one flyer, Ahmed al-Jaberi. “When there is a cloud, we try to figure out the way we need to go in and out of it and avoid thunderstorms or hail.”
Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alex Richardson
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is among the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. The U.N. has highlighted the devastating toll that climate change will have on the region’s water supplies and food production systems, and its potential to create breeding grounds for terrorism and violent extremism. No country will be spared: The affluent Gulf nations face depleted freshwater resources within the next 50 years, while in conflict-ridden Iraq, average temperatures are soaring at a rate that is two-to-seven times faster than the global average. Food and water production systems across the Levant face imminent collapse.
Climate change has already started to exacerbate fragility in countries that are mired in conflict or undergoing post-conflict transitions, and countries that are struggling to cope with the impact of a growing youth population, bloated public sectors, volatile oil prices, weak governance, and the fallout from the pandemic. The crisis will contribute to the proliferation of armed groups, intensify conflicts over natural resources, and make it easier for extremist organizations to attract recruits. To address the problem, governments must approach climate change as a public policy issue, a threat that is interconnected with a host of other challenges that combine to create a multiplier effect.
This requires a renewed effort to deliver services, balance short-term economic grievances with the long-term imperative of austerity measures and good governance reforms, and ultimately build resilience so that violence and terrorism cannot easily flourish. The social fabric of the most vulnerable countries may continue to erode, but this does not mean governments cannot establish response mechanisms to slow the downward spiral.
ALREADY A PROBLEM, WATER SCARCITY WILL GET WORSE
Globally, average rainfall has reached new record lows over the last three decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said in 2014 that human security will be progressively threatened as temperatures increase, and has re-asserted the threat of climate-induced conflicts in its 2022 report. In the Middle East, water scarcity is already a huge problem — a region that is home to 12 of the world’s 17 most “water stressed countries” according to the World Resources Institute. The outlook is worrying: The World Bank estimates that climate-related water scarcity will cost Middle Eastern nations between 6 percent and 14 percent of their GDP by 2050, due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health, and incomes.
These red flags already indicate severe near-term implications for national and regional stability, including geopolitical flare-ups. Turkey controls more than 90 percent of the water that flows into the Euphrates, and 44 percent of that in the Tigris. Yet Ankara has been accused of weaponizing water supplies as it grapples with the conflict in Syria and geopolitical turmoil. Since December 2020, Turkish dams have cut the flow of the Euphrates to neighboring countries such as Iraq by 60 percent, which has also resulted in food and power shortages in Syria. This has compounded the water crisis in Iraq, which could see at least seven million people lose access to water.
Similarly, upstream dams in Iran have shrunk the Tigris tributaries, cutting off flow at the Diyala river in Iraq’s northeast. Lake Hamrin, the main water source for Iraq’s Diyala province, which borders Iran, has lost nearly 70 percent of its water, embroiling the province in a humanitarian and environmental calamity.
Yet climate change threatens every country in the region. Aid groups have warned more than 12 million people in Iraq and Syria are losing access to water, food, and electricity because of rising temperatures and record low rainfall. Desertification is sweeping across the region in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Iran. The cost of water in Jordan has increased by 30 percent over the past decade because of the lack of groundwater. The Middle East’s wealthier nations are also at risk. Outside of the fragile countries in the region, the UAE has the highest per capita consumption of water in the world but risks depleting its freshwater resources in the next 50 years due to population growth and higher domestic water use.
THE DOMINO EFFECT OF CLIMATE CRISES
Climate change can have a dilapidating impact on security and the fabric of societies by inflaming socioeconomic fractures and eroding the trust in public institutions. The problem is best summed up as interconnected crises that combine to create a domino effect of problems at the local, national, and geopolitical level. This begins with weakened state institutions and ends with ungoverned spaces in which extremist armed groups and criminal enterprises thrive, prompting the internal displacement of populations and an exodus of refugees that ensures no country in the region and beyond is spared.
Water scarcity and poverty force people to migrate to densely populated towns and cities in search of jobs, which imposes further costs and pressures on over-burdened infrastructure. The link between climate crises and social unrest as a result of climate migration has long been established. Syria’s civil war has been attributed to the five-year drought that struck the country in 2007, among other factors. The drought produced unprecedented poverty, paving the way for migration to the peripheries of Syria’s main cities, which were already burdened by population growth. The influx of refugees and resulting pressure on poor infrastructure established the deep-rooted grievances that were central to the 2011 uprising.
State failure, uncontrolled migration, and ungoverned spaces directly enable armed groups and terrorists who feed off the vulnerabilities of the poor to swell their ranks. The degradation of infrastructure as a result of poor governance, population density, and rising costs can intersect to create situations that become untenable for local populations, particularly in the summer when scorching temperatures and lack of rain result in crop failures and limited access to water and electricity. This has manifested itself in region-wide protests and upheaval, including protests that have rocked ruling elites from Iran to Lebanon.
CLIMATE CHANGE RAISES THE RISK OF ARMED CONFLICT
Geopolitical tensions — like the quarrel between Iraq, Turkey, and Iran over the building of dams that restrict water flows — and policies that weaponize water supplies, increase the prospects for conflict. Meanwhile armed groups like ISIS have displayed a notable ability to weaponize water infrastructure by wielding control of water infrastructure in Syria and Iraq to acquire legitimacy or to punish enemies and the communities under the organization’s control; in some instances, it taxed access to water. At one point the group controlled the Tabqa dam, which provided 20 percent of Syria’s electricity and supplies water to five million people.
A paper by Stanford University that investigates how much climate change affects the risk of armed conflict concludes that droughts, floods, natural disasters, and other climatic shifts have influenced between 3 percent and 20 percent of conflicts over the last century. The response to climate crises in fragile states is likely to be poor and slow, and the diminished trust in political elites that follows makes it easier for militants to contest the state. Some groups, like Shiite militias in Iraq or militias in Syria, have established geographic advantages and control over water supplies at the expense of other groups, creating zero-sum political and security conditions — in some cases underscored by ethnic and sectarian rivalries — that set intra-state conflicts over increasingly scarce resources into motion. One in four intrastate conflicts will result from changing climate according to the paper.
GOVERNMENTS MUST RETHINK HOW THEY TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE
Middle Eastern governments must recalibrate how they make decisions about climate-related threats, taking into account the short and long-term implications of the crisis. For example, the push for digitalization in the region is still in its nascent stages — the UAE has become a trailblazer, with others like the Kurdistan region of Iraq looking to follow suit — but it has the potential to reduce emissions and waste. The World Economic Forum estimates digital technologies could cut global emissions by 15 percent. Digitalization will provide institutions in the Middle East with greater bandwidth to combat the socio-economic challenges that climate change can produce or aggravate. Secondly, and as part of this process, regional and international governments, multilateral institutions, and the private sector should increase funding for climate-related research in the MENA region, which currently pales in comparison to the resources awarded to institutions in the West.
Climate change will struggle to find its way to the top of national agendas until it is identified as a conflict and risk multiplier, rather than simply yet another problem that should be added to the growing list of issues facing the region. As a multiplier, it creates the potential for a convulsion that will impose untold suffering on a region already engulfed in socioeconomic crises, social unrest, violent extremism, and terrorism. An investment in research and awareness could trigger a cultural shift within government and society that allows for a re-calibration of public sector reform approaches and that adjusts good governance strategies to encourage and enable innovations that alleviate climate-related challenges.
The following outlines one particular area where to build low-carbon, resilient societies that share the same transboundary water situation of the MENA region.
The region is generally one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, enduring extremely high temperatures, desertification, water scarcity, degraded marine and coastal ecosystems and high levels of air pollution.
Jordan has launched a US$600 million project in 2007 to pump water from its Disi aquifer in the south, signalling an end in sight to the kingdom’s chronic water shortage, experts and government officials say. But as it happens, it is not as simple as that.
It is argued that there are striking differences between the social, environmental, economic, and political perspectives of any groundwater essentiality between different countries. Thus, international law has been focused on this source of water. This is especially acute if critically relying on the groundwater that could be up to 97% of the whole water resources.
Al Disi Aquifer is known as a non-rechargeable type, as it is separated from any surface water or any water source. Accordingly, this aquifer is difficult to be sustainably utilized; its water, labelled fossil has been accumulated over a long time.
It is in the Arabian Peninsula, mostly in Saudi Arabia, but part of it is in Jordan. Jordan is a country of mostly arid land, with limited sources of water that has been and still is experiencing the hydro-hegemony influence of its other neighbour, i.e., Israel. In other words, the Jordan River, which is the only source of water in Jordan is being dominated and used by Israel, despite a certain agreement between the two countries.
Jordan has the scarcest water availability, suffering an extreme shortage of water, and its land is almost all arid, furthermore, it is considered affected by the hegemony of its neighbours’ concept, where most water resources are utilized without any restraints. Therefore, Jordan has focused on other sources like the Disi aquifer to maintain its basic needs of water.
Saudi Arabia’s land is arid with no underground water resources. Their economic development must have been oriented towards utilizing the fossil fuel that became the main source of the economy. The government focused on developing the agriculture of wheat mainly, to maintain certain food security, which contribute only to 1.7 of their GDP. It is assumed by the Draft Synthesis Report that agriculture had been supported by the government, but it is mainly dependent on the underground to the extent that some aquifers have dried up leading the government to recently stop its funding of the farming companies.
Al Disi aquifer is a very important source of freshwater for that area, located between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This is due to its efficiency in the sustainable development of water with the environmental ecological balance. This aquifer lies in the huge area of almost all of Jordan and extends to the area of Tabuk that is in Saudi Arabia, comprising a confined type of groundwater aquifers. The City of Aqaba depends on the Disi aquifer as a main source of water. It is assumed to be an area of free trade and depend on tourism and investments even in times of shortage in the supply of water. The project of the Red Sea to Amman from the Jordan River will initiate an alternative water supply to Al Disi, and the water from the latter will be used in Aqaba city.
It is expected that Jordan will have less water in the future, and farming will suffer a shortage of water, according to the increasing pressure on water demand for domestic purposes. This is due to the significant increase in the refugees that came to Jordan from different neighbouring countries like Iraq and Syria. To this end, many assume that Jordan has reached an extreme shortage of water, and the Jordanian authorities should rely on other resources like the Jordan River, and co-operational negotiation is significantly essential to initiate more projects like the Red Sea-Dead Sea project will be very helpful to fill the gap of water needs.
Yet the most disappointing results of the situation of the watershed in Jordan is that both the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers, which are the main sources of surface water, are suffering from extreme drawbacks, either from over abstracting or building dams for hydroelectric by neighbours. Thus, the most significant finding of this situation is that the aquifer water is important for Jordan natural resources, according to Musa Hantash, the Jordanian water secretary, saying that the “Al-Disi should be protected as national wealth for coming generations,” this is due to the aquifer vast spatial distances that are covered.
Both countries Saudi Arabia and Jordan had started to extract water from the aquifer in 1977 for different purposes, but in 1983 both have started to use this water excessively in agriculture.
The excessive of extracting water is due to the Lack of international mechanisms like the international agreement that guide the countries towards a framework of the sustainable manner in water utilization. Yet different transboundary agreements have different mechanisms.
This aquifer agreement represents one of the contemporary approaches to transboundary underground water management that focuses on the domestic allocation of water abstraction from specific areas and avoiding vulnerable ones, which support water management.
The fossil aquifer Al Disi like many transboundary aquifers between many MENA countries, like North-Western Sahara Aquifer Sass, Tunisian and Nubian Sandstone between Egypt and Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System in Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan, the world’s greatest non-renewable aquifer. These aquifers are regarded as very essential to balancing the sustainable development of nature and keeping some control on sediments.
Paradox lost: wetlands can form in deserts, but we need to find and protect them
Once dismissed as dank and bug-infested backwaters – good only for draining and destroying to make farmland – the world’s wetlands may finally be having their moment in the sun. In the UK, the government is expected to nominate a vast expanse of blanket bogs in the far north of Scotland as a world heritage site. They might not sound attractive to some people, but these bogs are among the world’s biggest stores of carbon, they provide abundant freshwater and they harbour a miraculous array of wildlife.
This recognition that wetlands are worth protecting has its roots in an agreement signed 50 years ago, on February 2 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. The Ramsar Convention is the only international convention that’s dedicated to protecting a specific ecosystem, though in reality, the “wetlands” that the convention refers to can mean anything from swamps and peat bogs to shallow lakes and estuaries.
So far, 171 countries have signed up to the convention and more than 2,400 sites are protected under it, representing between 10% and 20% of the world’s remaining wetlands and collectively covering an area larger than Mexico. Under the convention, governments are committed to the “wise use” and upkeep of wetlands in their borders, but this doesn’t necessarily keep them safe. Nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1700, and those which remain are being lost at a rate that’s three times faster than forests.
From agricultural expansion and river diversion to invasive species and climate change, wetlands face numerous threats. But one of the gravest may be ignorance. We still don’t know enough about these habitats, and they can still surprise even seasoned scientists like us. Perhaps most surprising of all are those wetlands that seem to confound all logic by thriving amid some of the driest places on Earth.
Boom and bust amid the dust
Drylands are regions of the world where more water evaporates than falls from the sky. Warm drylands cover about 40% of the Earth’s surface, but about 28% of this area overlaps with inland rivers and wetlands. The result is marshes, swamps, floodplains, and oases in a landscape where water is otherwise scarce.
Wetlands are especially important in dry landscapes, as they can be the only supply of freshwater and food for people and wildlife for miles around. Some wetlands in drylands are famous. Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshes (largely believed to be the inspiration for the Garden of Eden) and the Nile River floodplain are both largely surrounded by desert, but it’s here in these Middle Eastern wetlands where modern human civilisation emerged.
For every famous example, there are thousands that remain unidentified and unmapped. That’s partly because these unique habitats change frequently, sometimes vanishing completely before eventually reappearing. Seasonal downpours can sustain these green patches for a while if the soil doesn’t drain well and is particularly good at holding onto the water. Other wetlands in drylands are more permanent thanks to a source of water below ground, with enough seeping to the surface to maintain damp conditions. But some wetlands can lie dormant until they’re reawakened by river flooding and suddenly erupt in vibrant shades of green.
Many wetlands in drylands are small and temporary, only hosting a thriving ecosystem for a few months following good rains that may occur years or even decades apart. Depending on the scale and their timing, scientific surveys may miss these hidden treasures. The boom-and-bust wetlands that are adapted to emerge following occasional pulses of water are so understudied that we’re in danger of losing them before we even realise their presence and understand their full value.
All wetlands are prone to change over time. Sometimes rivers change their course and switch where floodwaters, sediment and nutrients end up. Older wetlands dry up, while newer ones develop. These changes create a mosaic of different landforms with different grades of wetness and soil types, helping to create a wide range of habitats that support an equally vast range of wildlife. Understanding the processes that give rise to these wetlands can help us maintain them, but the first step must be debunking the idea that such habitats are static, unchanging features of the landscape.
Despite some limitations, the Ramsar Convention remains one of the best mechanisms for protecting and highlighting the value of wetlands, even if many still go under the radar. Though there are signs of change. India recently added a complex of shallow lakes high up in a dry mountain to the Ramsar list. Numerous threatened species may benefit from this habitat, including the vulnerable snow leopard. Hopefully, other countries will follow suit and recognise more of these rare and beautiful places before it’s too late.
https://www.myglobalviewpoint.com/most-beautiful-places-in-algeria/ 12 MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN ALGERIA TO VISIT October 1, 2023 Are you thinking about visiting Algeria someday? Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Algeria. Prepare to be mesmerized by these captivating sights and destinations. Algeria, the vast expanse of beauty in North Africa, remains one of the world’s best-kept […]
Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
This site uses functional cookies and external scripts to improve your experience.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.