Keywords: ecosystem benefits, integrated water resources management, sustainable development
Freshwater ecosystem management: from theory to application
At the start of the 21st Century, humankind is struggling with many complex issues related to the management of freshwater resources. A key concern is that over-exploitation, in a world of increasing water stress, will result in environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services beneficial to humankind. 'Ecosystem management' is one approach to managing natural resources, proffered by its advocates as a way of maximising long-term socio-economic benefits, whilst simultaneously conserving ecosystem processes and biodiversity. Despite a large number of impediments to implementation, there is an increasing convergence between the philosophical approach advocated by ecosystem management and the actual management of freshwater resources. This paper explores the concept of ecosystem management, the constraints upon it and the ways in which the principles it espouses are beginning to be incorporated in the practical management of freshwater resources.