Update on the State
of the World's Lakes
Many of the world's lakes are in crisis. Diversion
of lake water for use in irrigation and industry,
invasions of exotic plant and animal species, and
contamination by toxic substances and nutrients from
industry, farms, municipal sewage, and polluted urban
runoff are common on a scale today that significantly
threatens lake ecosystems on every continent but Antarctica.
In most parts of the world human impacts on lakes are
spreading geographically and becoming more intense in
quantity and quality due to human population increases
and the globalization of trade, which has increased
deforestation and the use of pesticides and fertilizers,
and has spurred the spread of invasive species.
Fragmented and resource-poor lake management prevents,
delays or distorts the efficient planning, implementing
and enforcement of comprehensive, participatory watershed-wide
lake management plans in both developed and developing
countries. Transboundary lakes, particularly ones that
cross international boundaries, have particularly difficult
obstacles to overcome.
Despite the rich biological resources found in lake
basins, programs to protect freshwater biodiversity
have lagged far behind programs directed toward terrestrial
or marine habitats. There continues to be little focus
specifically on lake conservation, despite lakes'
critical role in the freshwater cycle. Lakes and their
watersheds are dramatically underrepresented both
in protected areas and in conservation funding.
Much has been learned by citizens, scientists, government
officials and others about how to effectively protect
lakes. Now we need to collect these valuable lessons,
disseminate them in usable forms and provide the training,
support and funding to adapt effective strategies to
local environments and successfully protect our lakes.
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