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UN Environmental Study Calls for New Approach to Managing Ecosystems

[UN News. September 15, 2000.]

15 September -- A landmark assessment released today by United Nations agencies and other international organizations calls for a new approach to managing ecosystems in order to stem the widespread decline of the processes that sustain life.

Issued by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank and the World Resources Institute (WRI), the report titled World Resources 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems, The Fraying Web of Life paints a dismal picture of over-fishing, over-pumping of water for farming, destruction of coral reefs and forests, and too much tourism.

The report -- prepared by over 175 scientists over a two-year period -- examines coastal, forest, grassland, freshwater and agricultural ecosystems, grading their health on the basis of their ability to produce the goods and services that the world currently relies on, such as food production, provision of safe water, storage of atmospheric carbon, maintenance of biodiversity and provision of recreation and tourism opportunities.

"For too long we have focused on how much we can take from our ecosystems, with little attention to the services that they provide," said Thomas Johansson, Director of UNDP's Energy and Atmosphere Programme. "Ecosystems provide essential services like climate control and nutrient recycling that we cannot replace at any reasonable price."

The study recommends that governments and people must view the sustainability of ecosystems as essential to human life. It calls for an "ecosystems approach" to managing the world's critical resources, which means evaluating decisions on land and resource use in light of how they affect the capacity of ecosystems to produce goods and services.


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