This Week In Water: Landscapes Thinking In Action

Ecosystem Marketplace is taking an up-close look at the landscapes approach to nature and conservation starting with two Katoomba Meetings this spring, which will help prompt  cross-sector collaboration. Meanwhile, EM monitors landscapes thinking activities in Yorkshire, England and the US. 

Ecosystem Marketplace is taking an up-close look at the landscapes approach to nature and conservation starting with two Katoomba Meetings this spring, which will help prompt cross-sector collaboration. Meanwhile, EM monitors landscapes thinking activities in Yorkshire, England and the US.

This article was originally posted in the Water Log newsletter. Click here to read the original.

28 February 2014 | Environmental finance has always been something of a double-edged sword.

Mechanisms like species banking, forest-carbon crediting, and investments in watershed services draw finance into conservation, based on the fundamental recognition that our civilization depends on clean air, clean water, and resilient ecosystems. On the other hand, focusing efforts (and finance) on specific ecosystem values favors those that can be measured and verified, which means we run the risk of leaving a whole symphony of ecosystem services unaccounted for and unsupported.

Scientifically, that never made sense. Forests feed rivers, which feed farms, which feed us. It all links together. But our economic and regulatory systems weren’t designed with nature in mind. Landscapes thinking aims to fix this flaw by nurturing our planet’s living ecosystems holistically rather than in their component parts.


But creating sustainable landscapes requires the cooperation of major agriculture players, policy makers, and financial institutions, as well as scientific experts in deforestation, water, and biodiversity. Two upcoming global Katoomba Meetings – the first to be held in Brazil in March followed in April by one in Lima – demonstrate that principle in action, bringing together diverse stakeholders together as part of an ongoing effort to accelerate this change.


Landscape approaches are a recurring feature in this month’s Water Log as well.


We have stories about a $30 million dollar effort to manage forested watersheds in the US for multiple functions: drinking water protection, carbon sequestration, habitat, and resilience to wildfire and other disasters. In Yorkshire, a water company is working with local farmers, hunters, business and government to restore moorlands to health, selecting strategies that benefit local wildlife, protect downstream areas from flooding, sequester carbon, and naturally filter water.


We think stories like this are important. A ‘landscape approach’ sounds nice (or all “motherhood and apple pie,” as they might say in Yorkshire) but the average observer might wonder what, exactly, investing in nature at a landscape scale looks like in practice.


We suggest taking a look at coverage of a recent WRI/IUCN effort to collect lessons about successes and failures in forest landscape restoration, inventorying more than 20 examples from countries spanning the globe. We also have coverage of a powerful new tool for real-time, landscape-scale monitoring: the Global Forest Watch, a project of Google and the University of Maryland. With ‘landscape approaches’ becoming the latest buzzword at global climate talks, 2014 may be a big year for projects like these.

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Google Offers a View into Forest Growth—or Loss—in Real Time

If a tree falls in the forest, not only can you hear it, now you can actually see it in real time, thanks to a new, freely accessible tool called Global Forest Watch.

The world has lost 230 million hectares of tree cover from 2000 to 2012, according to data compiled by the University of Maryland (UM) and Google. In an effort to reverse this “spiral of destruction,” a coalition of more than 40 partners – led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and including UM and Google – have jointly launched Global Forest Watch, a new online forest monitoring and alert system that utilizes the most recent satellite data available.


“This will be a revolution in global forest management,” said Felipe Calderí³n, former President of Mexico, at a February 20 launch event at the Newseum in Washington DC.

Read more at Watershed Connect.

Latin American Katoomba Meetings Aim To Turbocharge Climate Talks

There’s always been a sense that a more formalized holistic approach would deliver better benefits than splitting conservation finance into narrow streams like carbon, biodiversity offsets, or watershed investments. That philosophy took center stage at climate talks in Warsaw late last year.


2014 is the 20th year that climate negotiators under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be meeting to try and end global warming, and Peru will host this year’s talks. As a run-up, it’s also hosting the 20th Katoomba Meeting in April – one of two Katoombas taking place in Latin America this year.


The March meeting will take place on the 19th and 20th at Iguazíº Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, under the banner Scaling Up Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains. The April meeting will take place in Lima, Peru, over four days – from the 22nd through the 25th – and its working motto is Climate, Forests, Water, and People: A Vision for Alignment in Tropical America.

Here’s a preview of these two meetings and how we’ll be covering them.

Keys To Launching Successful Forest Landscape Restoration

In 2011, WRI, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and research partners published Landscapes of Opportunity, the first global assessment of where forest landscape restoration might be possible. This map helped build momentum toward the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to start restoring 150 million hectares—an area three times the size of Spain—of lost and degraded forests by 2020.


Since then, several nations―ranging from the United States to Rwanda―have made Bonn Challenge restoration pledges, with pledges from others on the way. What some nations are asking now isn’t “what” restoration is or “where” it is possible, but “how” can it be done successfully?


To help answer this question, WRI and IUCN assessed more than 20 examples from around the globe of forest landscape restoration over the past 150 years, including both relative successes and failures. Lessons from these countries can not only provide insights into what works, but also inspire others to restore.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Writing About Food Security? Say It With Pictograms!

Food security is a critical yet complex issue, and CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) has issued a new set of pictograms designed to help people who need to communicate it do so with pictures.


Big Facts is an open-source, online library of pictograms designed to illustrate the nexus of climate change, agriculture and food security. It is intended to provide a credible and reliable platform for fact checking amid the range of claims that appear in reports, advocacy materials and other sources. Anyone is free to download, use and share the facts and graphic images.

Visit the Big Facts library.
Learn more about the project.

In The News


Will Louisiana’s Plan for Reviving the Gulf Be Enough?

In a sharp contrast to the strategy used to manage runaway nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, which relied on setting strict caps on pollution at federal and state levels, officials are taking their own approach to similar problems in the Gulf of Mexico. State of Louisiana officials say that river diversion projects can help remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the waters draining into the Gulf. The state will also fund voluntary programs to encourage farmers to manage their fertilizer use and control animal wastes.

Environmental groups say that heavy reliance on engineered diversions will mean a long wait for results: “We’re looking at five, ten, fifteen, twenty years out for multiple large-scale diversions to be in place, and we need to be doing something about the dead zone long before that,” says Matt Rota, a spokesman for Gulf Restoration Network.

Critics also charge that the plan fails to engage upstream states, which are the source of the majority of pollution. Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, noted that Louisiana lacks the authority to induce upstream states to control nutrient pollution, though Louisiana is exploring the possibility of a nutrient credit trading system with upriver states. In the absence of federal intervention, as in the Chesapeake (which would be sure to meet fierce opposition), Graves says voluntary efforts are the way forward.

The Times-Picayune has coverage.

Commonwealth-NSW Ink a Deal on the Murray-Darling

A new deal signed between the Australian Commonwealth and the state of New South Wales will deliver $80 million AUD ($71.7 USD) for water infrastructure projects and restore 1500 gigalitres of water to the Murray-Darling river system over the next eight years through water entitlement buybacks by the Commonwealth. New South Wales has previously taken issue with the maximum cap on buybacks, citing concerns about impacts to farmers.

Learn more at Circle of Blue.

Water Rights Buybacks Helped Australian Farmers, Study Says

A chief criticism of the Australian federal government’s efforts to buy and retire water rights in the Murray-Darling River system has been that buybacks would hurt farmers. A new study, forthcoming in the journal Agricultural Water Management, suggests that the opposite may be true. Sale of water entitlements were found to be linked to farmers’ reducing their debt, modernizing operations, and increasing productivity. The catch: these benefits take some time to appear. About one-fifth of farmers in the basin have sold surplus water entitlements to the government, which set a goal to restore 3200 gigalitres of water to the severely overdrawn river system by 2012. Of those farmers who sold entitlements, 60% were still farming, 30% had left the sector, and 10% had replaced the sold entitlement with water from other sources or switched to dryland farming.

Get the full story.

World Bank Throws its Weight Behind Nexus Thinking

The World Bank recently announced its newest initiative, “Thirsty Energy,” which seeks to support tools and management frameworks that address linkages between water and energy security. Water-for-energy is the entry point: the World Bank says it will work to increase awareness among decision-makers about the water requirements of energy development choices, and promote integrated planning around water and electricity.

Visit the Thirsty Energy website.


Restoring US Lands – One Forest at a Time

As carbon emissions increase, healthy forests are needed to counter those effects, says Robert Bonnie of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). And it’s the reason why the USDA – under President Obama’s climate action plan to cut carbon pollution – is spending $30 million on forest restoration projects this year. They’re starting with restoring the watershed that provides Helena, Montana with its drinking water supply, by reducing forest fuels (such as pine beetle-killed trees). That effort will cost $865,000. Altogether, the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership will support projects in twelve states aiming to reduce the threat of wildfire, protect water quality and improve wildlife habitat. Funds will come from a mix of Forest Service budget (for efforts on public lands) and Farm Bill appropriations (for work with private landowners).

Learn more at the Helena Independent Record.

Nairobi Business Task Force Aims for Water Collaboration, Not Conflict

In Nairobi, water risk is making collaborators out of former competitors. East African Breweries’ subsidiaries’ operations in Nairobi face increased insecurity around water supplies in the Tana catchment. Other businesses in Nairobi, including BASF, British American Tobacco, Coca-Cola Nairobi Bottlers and Chandaria Industries, had the same problem. These companies, along with government officials, the German development department GIZ, and other stakeholders, in 2013 formed a task force to collectively address problems in the watershed.


The effort is in early stages, but members have agreed to share best practices and jointly commit to specific interventions to protect the watershed. “We realised we couldn’t do it on our own and that to make a real difference in the broader watershed, businesses will have to work together with new partners, many of whom we hadn’t worked with before,” Michael Alexander, global head of environment for Diageo (East African Breweries’ parent company), tells the Guardian.

Read more from the Guardian.

Ohio River Basin States Take the Lead on Water Quality Trading

Next month, three states in the Ohio River Basin will move forward with the first interstate water quality credit trade. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky make up what is currently the world’s biggest nutrient trading agreement. The plan includes 46 power plants and hundreds of wastewater facilities along with 230,000 farmers in the basin. Interstate trading has been a key issue slowing down progress in other regions, particularly the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most polluted watersheds in the country, but the six states and the District of Columbia bordering the Bay have yet to agree on what comprises a credit.

Keep reading here.

Yorkshire Water Invests in Pennine Moorlands

In the moorlands of Yorkshire, a water company is making major efforts to protect and restore the moors, helping to improve downstream water quality, control flooding, and protect wildlife habitats. Yorkshire Water has financed fencing to keep grazing animals out of sensitive areas, and this spring will replant 75 hectares with native vegetation. Work is being carried out through the Moors for the Future Partnership, a collaboration between Yorkshire Water, Natural England, local livestock producers, Calderale Council, rural regeneration company Pennine Prospects, and a local grouse shoot. Natural England will cover agri-environmental payments to land managers as compensation for their help in rehabilitating the moors.

Learn more.

Water Quality Trading Alliance aims to Spur Programs and Advance Effectiveness

In the US, law firm Troutman Sanders LLP has founded the Water Quality Trading Alliance (WQTA) to give trading the proverbial shot in the arm. The WQTA plans to work alongside the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture, acting as a platform to advance the science and effectiveness of water quality trading, while supporting new and existing markets. “This group will fill a breach at the national level by bringing together leaders who are committed to advancing the integrity, scientific rigor and defensibility of water quality trading,” says Brooks Smith of Troutman Sanders.

WaterWorld has coverage.

Businesses Realize Value of Nature with Online Resource

The Nature Conservancy and the Corporate Eco Forum are behind a new online resource for businesses called the Natural Capital Business Hub. It’s designed to help companies integrate the value of ecosystem services like clean water, into their bottom line, and adopt sustainable practices. “The natural capital of our earth is at risk. The Natural Capital Business Hub helps companies share good practice in new ways of working and designing infrastructure,” says Rupert Thomas of Shell. “It is important for me that we at Shell can share our experiences with green infrastructure solutions that can lower costs and carbon emissions while building up critical ecosystems, and also learn from others.” The Hub includes tools, case studies, implementation assistance, opportunities for collaboration and networking.

Read more here.

Trading in Grey for Green Spaces in London

Central London’s Victoria District is set to be one of the most sustainable and biodiverse places in the city. A £4bn (USD $6 billion) revitalization strategy for the area includes plans to create more than 25 hectares of green roofs and enhance other green infrastructure elements, like rainwater collection systems and planted “living walls”. Efforts build on a comprehensive green infrastructure audit that began in 2010, the first to be carried out by a business improvement district; other districts in London have since followed suit. “The creation of new areas of public realm, the enhancement of existing green assets and the progression of new environmental initiatives will soften the streetscape and make Victoria a place to linger rather than just hurry through from A to B,” the report explains. “In Victoria, the importance of green infrastructure in making the area a more pleasurable space to visit, live and work in is fast being recognised.”


Learn more.

A Wetland Park Spawns Green Growth in Los Angeles

A wetlands park in Los Angeles has earned the highest rating under the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s (ISI) Envision standard for capturing and reducing local urban runoff, while revitalizing the neighborhood with green spaces. The South L.A. Wetland Park used a series of best management practices regarding stormwater management, like capturing water from storm drains to sustain the wetlands. It also was designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change, adapting to extreme flood or drought conditions. “The South L.A. Wetland Park is a good example of an integrated engineering solution that successfully built consensus, captured and improved local urban runoff, and created a new neighborhood-revitalizing amenity,” said Sean P. Vargas, Psomas Principal, Director of Sustainability, and Envision Sustainability Professional and Envision Verifier at an award presentation ceremony.

Learn more.

Make a New Glacier, or Save the Old One?

Scientists in Chile, facing widespread retreat among the country’s 3100 glaciers, are trying a new tactic: making new ones. Glaciologist Cedomir Marangunic, of the University of Chile, is leading experimental techniques to encourage glacier formation through spreading detritus, adding barriers to encourage snow accumulation, or covering glacial surfaces with geotextile sheets to reduce the loss of surface ice. 82 percent of Chile’s fresh water reserves are in glaciers, but legal protection of glaciers lags behind neighboring Argentina. And questions about ownership status of glaciers on private land and assessing responsility for impacts fairly (for example, should the city of Santiago be penalized for air pollution that contributes to glacier melt?) remain.


Meanwhile, the head of Greenpeace Chile sounds skeptical: “I don’t doubt the good intentions of those [behind the studies],” says Matí­as Asun. “The urgent thing now is not to wait thousands of years to reproduce a glacier, to see if it works, but to protect what is already there.”

Tierramérica has coverage.


Nexus 2014: Water, Climate, Food and Energy Conference

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators will host the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference on March 5-8, 2014 to examine the thoughts and actions related to a nexus approach. The co-Directors of the Conference are Jamie Bartram, Director of The Water Institute, and Felix Dodds, Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, with support from an International Advisory Committee. The Conference will bring together scientists and practitioners working in government, civil society and business, and other stakeholders focusing on the questions of how and why the nexus approach is, and can be, used on international and local levels. 5-8 March 2014. Chapel Hill NC, USA.

Learn more here.

Conference on Innovations for equity in smallholder PES: bridging research and practice

What are the best ways to make schemes that compensate protectors of natural resources fairer and more inclusive? IIED’s conference on Innovations for equity in smallholder PES: bridging research and practice aims to explore the latest thinking on the issue from researchers, policy makers, funders and practitioners, and to share lessons learned. 21 March 2014. Edinburgh, Scotland.

Learn more here.

2014 Water Policy Conference

An impressive slate of legislators and policymakers have joined the lineup for AMWA’s 2014 Water Policy Conference in April. Key members of Congress and Administration officials will share their insights on national developments that will affect the nation’s water utilities in months and years to come. Attendees will also have the opportunity to share their views with the speakers. 6-9 April 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

Groundwater Summit 2014

This annual meeting will focus on “10 years of moving research to solutions.” Participants will have the opportunity to model, explore, characterize, bank, inject, extract, treat, and predict all subsurface needs with everything groundwater related. 4-7 May 2014. Denver CO, USA.

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. 6-9 May 2014. Denver CO, USA.

Learn more here.

3rd Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

The Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology is a meeting of stream ecologists held approximately every five years aiming to further the scientific study of stream ecosystems in urban landscapes. In 2014, the third symposium will be held in Portland in the days preceding the joint meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). The theme of SUSE3 will be mechanisms: both in the broad sense of landscape-scale drivers of ecological change and in the detailed sense of small-scale drivers of in-stream biotic response. At the broad scale, the symposium aims to further our understanding of variation in dominant mechanisms in different regions of the globe. 15-17 May 2014. Portland, OR.

Learn more here.


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