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Sudden 'ecosystem flips' imperil world's poorest regions, say water experts
Date:4/2/2008

This release is available in French.

Modern agriculture and land-use practices may lead to major disruptions of the worlds water flows, with potentially sudden and dire consequences for regions least able to cope with them researchers at the Stockholm University-affiliated Stockholm Resilience Centre and McGill University have warned.

In a paper published April 1 in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Dr. Line J. Gordon of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stockholm Environment Institute and Dr. Garry Peterson and Dr. Elena Bennett of McGill University argue that global water management has been focused too much on the blue water side of the hydrological cycle, neglecting the largely invisible changes humanity has had on so-called green water.

Blue water is the part of the cycle we can see, like streams and rivers, said Gordon, an assistant professor at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stockholm Environment Institute. This is as opposed to green water in soil moisture, or evapotranspiration from plants, which agriculture can affect in significant ways.

Resilience describes the capacity of social-ecological systems to withstand climactic or economic shocks, and to then rebuild and renew themselves. In their paper, the researchers look at the likelihood of that vital resilience being lost in the aftermath of catastrophic changes to the hydrological cycle that could be caused by agriculture and land-use practices.

Our main point is that these effects arent necessarily going to result in gradual change, explained Peterson, McGills Canada Research Chair in Social-Ecological Modelling, and assistant professor in the Department of Geography and the McGill School of Environment. They can result in surprising, dramatic changes, what we call 'ecosystem flips' or 'ecosystem regime changes,' which can be very d
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Contact: Mark Shainblum
mark.shainblum@mcgill.ca
514-398-2189
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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