A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 17: Transitions to Adaptive Approaches to Water Management and Governance in Sweden
Per Olsson and Victor Galaz 17.1 Introduction Human well-being and societal development depend on ecosystem services such as food, timber, medicines, water and air purification, carbon storage, pollination, soil formation, and the provision of aesthetic and cultural benefits (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Fresh water – the ‘bloodstream of the biosphere’ (Falkenmark, 1999; Ripl, 2003) – is crucial in this respect as it drives critical processes and functions in ecosystems like forests, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, croplands and other terrestrial systems. This stream of interconnected social–ecological systems, however, is becoming increasingly complex to manage. This is due to human-induced environmental changes, from the local to the global scale, that have serious impacts on water flows and on ecosystems. Some of these changes are incremental and possible to prepare for with integrated planning and monitoring (for example Bates et al., 2008). Others, however, can unfold as surprises and trigger biophysical processes with irreversible ecological repercussions (Scheffer et al., 2001; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Such shifts can erode the capacity of ecosystems to generate essential services and make them more vulnerable to perturbations. Impaired water-related ecosytems, for example, can become less resilient to sudden flooding, nutrient or chemical leakage and algal bloom or high levels of toxic pollutants. Since such perturbations are an inherent or typical part of social–ecological systems, the challenge is to safeguard or restore the capacity of life-supporting ecosystems to respond to change without losing important structures and functions. Many scholars emphasize the need for new flexible, integrated, holistic forms of...
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