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Put ecosystem to work: Restoring wetlands, managing watersheds could save Lake Winnipeg

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By Henry David Venem -- In 1997, American scientist Robert Costanza published a remarkable study in the journal Nature that attempted to answer the question: What is our environment worth in dollars? .Globally, ecosystems provide human society with at least $33 trillion worth of services annually, he claimed. In a sense, Costanza and his colleagues merely formalized the obvious, that our environment provides the basic elements of human well-being—drinkable water and breathable air and the cost of engineering alternatives would be astronomical. Nonetheless, the scientific community was staggered by the size of the numbers.

Faced with serious threats to the health of iconic Lake Winnipeg, Manitobans would do well to heed the insights of Costanza. According to the Manitoba Department of Water Stewardship, fully two-thirds of the phosphorus generated within Manitoba comes from agricultural watersheds—about half of this is from human activities, and about half from natural sources. Better managed, these same watersheds can be a big part of the solution by providing ecosystem services like filtering and removing algae-causing nutrients.

Henry David (Hank) Venema is IISD's Director of Sustainable Natural Resources Management. This article was published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) September 2007, and originally ran in the Winnipeg Free Press, September 23, 2007.

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Photo Credit: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Manitoba Chapter

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Soumis par: WetlandNetwork

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