International Governance of Fisheries Ecosystems: Learning from the Past, Finding Solutions for the Future

Chapter 2: Tradeoffs in Management of Freshwater Ecosystem Services Under International Environmental Conventions: The Case of Inland Waters Fisheries

T. Douglas Beard, Jr., Heather Allen, Elizabeth P. Anderson, and Katherine L. Smith

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569995.ch2

Humans rely heavily on freshwater systems for a variety of ecosystem services (ES) such as clean water supplies, food production, commercial fishing (provisioning ES), nutrient assimilation (regulating ES), flood control (supporting ES) and recreation (cultural ES) (MEA 2003). Pressures on freshwater systems to provide multiple ecosystem services, particularly those of water supply and waste assimilation, have led to high rates of biodiversity loss (Revenga and Kura 2003). Further, interlinked activities, such as physical changes in the nature of inland freshwater systems, modification of water regimes, influx of invasive species, fisheries management and harvest, water pollution, and eutrophication and climate change have contributed to the declines in inland biodiversity and fisheries resources over the past few decades (Post et al. 2002; Allan et al. 2005; Finlayson et al. 2005). Recent evidence suggests that fish and invertebrates within inland aquatic ecosystems comprise 40–70% of the known species classified at a minimum of being vulnerable to extinction (WRI 2000; Revenga and Kura 2003; Finlayson et al. 2005). Future scenarios suggest that tradeoffs between increases in food production, water availability and nutrient input will further exacerbate the decline in production of freshwater services, such as in biodiversity and fisheries production (MEA 2005a).

Development of a framework for agencies to consider tradeoffs in the decision making processes of inland freshwater management are needed. Tradeoffs can be defined as management choices that change the type, magnitude, and/or the relative mix of services provided by ecosystems (MEA 2005b). Decision making often favors the production of one ecosystem service over another (MEA 2005b). Decisions are commonly made to favor short term production of provisioning ecosystem services (such as food production or water supply) that meet direct needs of human well-being over longer term supporting or regulating services (such as flood control) provided by ecosystems (MEA 2005a). For example, management of freshwater resources has frequently required consideration of tradeoffs between approaches that promote fisheries production versus those that protect aquatic biodiversity (Postel and Richter 2003). As demands on freshwater systems continue to increase, mechanisms for examining these tradeoffs strategically are needed from local to international levels.