The sector-specific approach needs to be abandoned in favour of openness. The ecosystems need to be taken as a whole to better understand the interactions involved and use these in the ongoing fight against global warming. This was one of the conclusions arrived at the eighth World Conference of the Ecosystem Services Partnership held at Stellenbosch from 9th to 13th November, 2015. "It's a relatively recent idea, but one that has taken hold at a number of international conferences on ecosystems," says programme manager Nelly Bourlion, who was representing Plan Bleu at Stellen bosch. "Up until now, each person was working in his or her own field, with his or her own methods and specific vocabulary, which made sharing knowledge difficult. Today, we need to do away with this compartmentalized approach for greater efficiency."
Water and forests share a common cause
Thus, integrated management of water and forests is essential for a sustainable response to the global changes on the Mediterranean horizon, in particular in the south and east of the region. Often found in the higher reaches of river basins, forests play a vital role in regulating water flow and water quality. They catch and store rainwater and humidity; they provide water (on the surface and through filtration into groundwater systems), regulate river flows and slow down erosion, thereby reducing soil loss and sedimentation. Yet water and forest management policies remain for the large part totally separate. Increasing interaction between the various stakeholders, between scientific community and political establishment, suppliers and consumers without leaving out the citizens, is a necessity today.
Another example is the link between lagoons and the sea. The lagoon's function as a nursery for fish species is a significant factor in maintaining fish stocks in the sea. The nutrients flushed into the lagoons from land provide sustenance for young sole and sea bream, increasing their growth rate and thus their chances of survival once they move out into the sea. Almost all the sea bream and around 50% of the sole caught off Sète and Marseille spent their early life in lagoons. This provides an outlet for the carbon produced on land -and normally trapped in the lagoon- towards the coastal seas. These ecosystem services are all assets that can be used in the drive towards sustainable development. Understanding them better to better preserve them should be part of a global approach to adapt to climate change.