Pay More Attention to Forests to Avert Global Water Crisis, Researchers Urge
Australia's Murray Darling basin covers more than a million square kilometers (approximately 386,000 square miles), 14 percent of the country's landmass. It's the site of tens of thousands of wetlands, but increasing demand for water has stretched its resources to the limit.
Many of the basin's wetlands and floodplain forests are declining—several former wetlands and forests have even been consumed by bushfires, which are becoming more frequent every year. Yet when Australian officials sought to introduce strict water allocation rules, they met with fierce resistance from farmers in the region who depend on irrigation for their livelihood.
This is just one example of the ongoing conflicts over ecological water allocations featured in a new report released by the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, an initiative led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
More than 7.5 billion humans currently occupy planet Earth together with an estimated three trillion trees, and both of these populations require water. According to the GFEP report, the growing human population and climate change are exacerbating a looming global water crisis that has already hit home in places like the Murray Darling basin—but the crisis could potentially be averted if humans paid more attention to the links between forests and water.
"This international effort to highlight the interlinkages between forests, water, people and climate is very timely, given the pressures we now face on both human society and natural ecosystems," Caroline Sullivan, an environmental economist at Australia's Southern Cross University who contributed to the report, said in a statement. "For example, here in Australia, we are facing water shortages, massive loss of biodiversity, rising incidence of floods and droughts, and loss of economic capital and human wellbeing."
In Mongolia, freshwater resources are scarce. L'irrésistible silhouette bleue / CC BY-SA 2.0
Despite the links between the global climate, forests, people and water, international bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have tended to view carbon sequestration as the chief role of forests and trees. GFEP co-chair Meine van Noordwijk, chief scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Indonesia and a professor of agroforestry at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, warns that we ignore the importance of water in the climate debate at our own peril.
"In view of the vital role water plays, even in facilitating the continuous sequestration of carbon in standing forests, a lack of understanding of landscape-scale effects amongst the forest and water science communities and policymakers is of increasing concern," Noordwijk said in a statement.
The GFEP report finds that water should be key to discussions of the interactions between forests and the global climate, especially in areas of water scarcity, because strategies focused entirely on carbon sequestration can still have drastic and unintended consequences for water resources. For example, reforestation projects need to take into account the water needs of new foliage and prioritize the use of species that are adapted to local conditions, per the report.
Irena Creed of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada is the other co-chair of the GFEP and co-editor of the report along with Noordwijk. She says that, just as it is missing from the climate debate, water is often overlooked as an important component of forest management.
"[N]atural forests, in particular, contribute to the sustainable water supply for people in the face of growing risks," Creed said in a statement. "And it is also possible to actively manage forests for water resilience."
For instance, the report spotlights the example of the various countries in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region that have revived dried-up springs by applying water-sensitive land management strategies in recharge zones.
Creed added that the future impacts of climate change introduce a level of unpredictability that we will also have to learn to deal with. "Natural disturbances and human activities influence forest and water relations with their impacts, depending on their timing, magnitude, intensity and duration," she said. "Under a changing climate, these influencing factors vary more than ever, sometimes in unanticipated ways. Forest management for the future must therefore factor in uncertainty."
Noordwijk notes that, "In our assessment, we focused on the following key questions: Do forests matter? Who is responsible and what should be done? How can progress be made and measured?" Because the answers to those questions depend heavily on regional context, Noordwijk, Creed and their co-authors seek to identify "globally relevant information on forest-water interactions" and highlight implications for international policymakers in the report. Specifically, they look at how a better understanding of the climate-forest-people-water connection can help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid out by the UN in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
"Governments and all stakeholders wanting to achieve the SDGs need to understand that water is central to attaining almost all of these goals, and forests are inseparably tied to water," Hiroto Mitsugi, assistant director-general at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a statement. "Policy and management responses must therefore tackle multiple water-related objectives across the range of SDGs, and take a multiple benefits approach."
The report concludes that governance of water and forests as resources can be improved "to reduce the identified hydro-vulnerability in the context of all SDGs, and the persistent and growing threats arising from climate change. Failure to place water at the centre of discussions on forest-climate interactions and diverse forestation strategies, will have important negative impacts on policy effectiveness and ultimately on the provision of water."
International governance can play a "highly important" role, the report states, by creating norms such as the SDGs, and providing opportunities for those norms to be discussed, negotiated and agreed upon. "National level governance can also be radically improved," the report adds, "in particular, by beginning to bring together competing sectors of the economy into national level institutional frameworks that encourage cooperation and negotiation across the broader scope of forest and water interactions."
NASA Study of Increasingly Dire Global Water Shortages Finds 'Clear Human Fingerprints' https://t.co/BNwBktsBtC… https://t.co/Q7tgaDNiBj— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526569048.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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By Farah Aqel
Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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