The Office of the British Consulate General in New York has very kindly agreed to host an exhibition of photographs taken from the book Freshwater: The Essence of Life — produced by Conservation International, the International League of Conservation Photographers and CEMEX. The photos in the exhibit at the Office of the Consulate show diverse, compelling images of the extent of freshwater ecosystem diversity and the threats it faces.
The exhibit was opened June 8 by the British Consulate General, Sir Alan Collins, at an evening reception attended by members of CI’s Board of Directors, invited colleagues, and staff from several CI divisions and from the Office of the Consulate. Sir Alan welcomed this collaboration with CI — and, turning his attention to freshwater ecosystems, commented on the important role that wetlands have in serving communities.
Sir Alan cited the development of the 2012 Olympic Park in London as an example. In the construction of this park, hundreds of acres of parkland, including many wetland habitats, have been created on former industrial land in London. Most important, this habitat restoration has been planned to account for the expected impacts of climate change. For example, given the expected increase in rainfall, project managers selected wetland vegetation that can help maintain manageable runoff of water from the park to the Thames River.
CI leadership also spoke at the event:
Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann said the Office of the British Consulate is an obvious choice for a freshwater photo exhibit because the British Isles have led the way in creating planning and policy for the sustainable management of ecosystems, and the services they deliver, in many parts of the world. And CI is committed to furthering that work. Thanks to the Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, funding agencies are now recognizing that conservation and management of biodiversity, and the services it provides, must be included as a component within funding programs to support human well-being in Africa. This is good news for all ecosystems, and especially for freshwater ones in Africa; a report produced by IUCN, with collaboration from CI staff, has shown that 21% of the freshwater species in Africa assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are threatened.
CI President Russ Mittermeier emphasised the importance of freshwater ecosystems around the world, noting that despite the fact that fresh water available to humans represents less than 0.01% of the water on Earth, freshwater ecosystems include an enormous diversity of species that supply essential goods and services to people around the world. Yet these system face many threats, including habitat destruction, pollution, the development of dams, and the introduction of invasive species.
Tracy Farrell, senior director for CI’s freshwater initiative, talked about how CI is helping to conserve these critical ecosystems. CI’s freshwater initiative will work on the science and tools necessary to describe and map the ecosystems and their functions. It will integrate this work with the policy and outreach that can affect better management decisions — and promote specific freshwater projects and capacity-building in CI field programs where they’re most needed.
The Freshwater exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., subject to availability, until July 7. Please register with Jennifer Higuchi of CI to arrange a visit to the exhibit. Photo ID is necessary for entrance.
Ian Harrison is CI’s Freshwater Species Assessment and Program Fundraising Manager.