Fresh Water: The Essence of Life is a beautifully and sometimes starkly depicted look at the current state of our Earth's freshwater ecosystems. A variety of authors, as well as dozens of the world’s most accomplished photographers, tells us a story we may feel uncomfortable hearing: The Earth’s freshwater supply and systems are in serious peril. We may carry on as if it was “business as usual,” but to do so is at our own risk – and will lead certainly to the detriment of the generations to follow us.
This latest publication in the CEMEX Conservation Book Series will alert readers to key issues concerning fresh water: its resources, its uses (and abuses), and its future. With precise, scientific analyses, Fresh Water: The Essence of Life presents a detailed and thoughtful explanation of these issues, and goes on to provide possible resolutions to them. As in The Wealth of Nature, CEMEX’s most recent publication, Fresh Water makes a statement concerning the Earth’s resources and capital: although the ecosystems have proved resilient throughout millennia, in the last few generations humanity has radically destroyed fresh water ecosystems to the point of alarm.
Through the pages of this volume, the reader will be challenged to not only understand the signiﬁcance of deteriorating fresh waters, but will also be motivated to rally support in political, biogeographical, and conservation forums.
Series editor Cristina Mittermeier has once again successfully gathered distinguished authors from a range of disciplines. Beginning with a Foreword by Luc Hoffmann, founder of the MAVA Foundation and led by Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier (President of Conservation lnternational) along with contributions from some of the most knowledgeable freshwater biologists and scientists in the field today, including Thomas Brooks (Nature Serve), Tracy Farrell (Conservation International), Ian Harrison (Conservation lnternational), and Amy Upgren (Conservation International) have specialized in developing national regulations for freshwater systems, species taxonomy and data compilation, wildlife trade, research and development, ornithology, biodiversity, and conservation actions.
The authors have contributed chapters important to understanding the issues; from exploring and applauding the groundbreaking 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, to Conservation International freshwater initiative, their varied backgrounds provide a breadth of knowledge in covering such topics as aquatic ecosystems, threats to such ecosystems, the services provided by freshwater ecosystems, its protected areas, and the future of not only freshwaters, but of their relation to humanity and the generations to come.
It is within our grasp to adapt to the conditions we have created and to mitigate our impact on the future, but the window of opportunity is closing. Now is the time to reclaim our humility in relationship to the Earth’s fresh water and to resurrect an understanding of how interdependent we are with these ecosystems.
In gratitude 7
A letter from CEMEX 9
Introduction. Fresh Water: The Essence of Life 15
Chapter 1. A Wealth of Life: Species Diversity in Freshwater Systems 50
Chapter 2. Aquatic Ecosystems: Diversity and Dynamism 90
Chapter 3. Freshwater Ecosystems Under Threat: The Ultimate Hotspot 118
Chapter 4. Protected Areas for Freshwater Ecosystems: Essential But Under-represented 152
Chapter 5. Freshwater Ecosystem Services: Essential for Human Well-Being 182
Chapter 6. Fresh Water for the Future: Policy to Secure and Essential Service for All 210
Appendix. Examples of common engagement for conserving the world's wetlands 228
Author contact information 250
Author biographies 264
Staff credits 299
Cristina Mittermeier is a Mexican marine biologist, photographer and biochemical engineer. She has coauthored several books for both popular and scientist audiences, and has coauthored several scientific papers as well as numerous magazine articles. She received her degree in marine biology from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, ITESM in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico in 1989. Prior to becoming a professional photographer, she conducted fieldwork in the Gulf of California and the Yucatan Peninsula in subjects including marine mammals, fisheries, aquaculture, biodiversity research and conservation.
Her husband Russell Mittermeier has conducted fieldwork for over 30 years on three continents and in more than 20 countries in mainly tropical locations, notably Brazil, Suriname and Madagascar. Mittermeier's fieldwork has been focused on primates, protected areas, and other conservation issues and he is considered an expert on such topics as biological diversity and its value to humanity, ecosystem conservation, tropical biology and species conservation.
He was named president of Conservation International in 1989. In addition to his work at CI, Mittermeier has served as Chairman of the IUCN-World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission's Primate Specialist Group since 1977, and as the Chairman of the World Bank's Task Force of Biological Diversity in 1988 and 1989. He also serves as President of the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation and an Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Prior to coming to Conservation International, he was Vice President for Science at the World Wildlife Fund.