Saving the planet’s bloodstream

Water is at the center of the planetary drama currently unfolding before our very eyes. Water not only supports ecosystem services like food and energy, it is also a critical regulator of temperature and climate on Earth.

As it flows through rivers and streams, rests in lakes and oceans, and falls as rain, water serves as the bloodstream of the biosphere. Any changes to water’s stabilizing capacity could push societies to the brink of collapse.

Despite this, humans continue to change landscapes and ecosystems to the point that water may go from being a friend to becoming a foe.

Part of the problem is that there are no global water management organizations, and consequences of human actions are not always felt at a regional level. Deforestation in one area of the world may trigger increased floods or droughts in another faraway region.

Water resources management concepts and frameworks are typically designed for the local to regional scale. In three studies recently published in Water Resources Research, One Earth, and Earth’s Future, centre researcher Lan Wang-Erlandsson with colleagues argue that such existing methods and frameworks fail to grasp the planetary consequences of human interferences on the water cycle.

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