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Floodplain declaration: Translation of floodplain ecohydrology into a policy framework
Abstract text
In the face of dramatic acceleration of global environmental degradation, and a progressive shortage of water
and energy, there is increasing scientific evidence that the Biogeosphere is a self- stabilizing system controlled
by feedback mechanisms among climate, water, and biota that has developed during the Earth's evolution. In
Anthropocene the natural homeostatic regulation of hydrological and biogeochemical processes has been
dramatically reduced, resulting in a decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services. River valleys and
floodplains which occupy lower elevations in the landscape are highly exposed to this cumulative and still
increasing human impacts from the surrounding catchment. At the same time, floodplains, as dynamic wetlands
and integral part of river basins, have high potential to mitigate environmental change and resulting threats for
humans. This is due to their exceptional capacity for water retention, stabilization of hydrological patters and
flood mitigation, biological production and biodiversity maintenance, groundwater recharge, river purification
and regulation of nutrients exchange between land and water, high compensatory food production,
CO<sub>2</sub> sequestration and production of bio-fuels, and other ecosystem services, all maintained by the
pulse-regulated hydrology of running waters. This makes them important components of global environmental
security and resilience. In order to reverse floodplain degradation and increase the ecological resilience and
economic benefits in catchments, a shift in strategy from floodplain exploitation to floodplain sustainable use is
necessary. Accordingly we need a change of public perception from sectoral, structural and reactive responses to
integrated, process-regulation-oriented and proactive approaches. Achieving of this goal may be possible due to:
i) ecohydrological management based on "dual regulation" and harmonization of biodiversity conservation with
human needs, such as flood mitigation, food and energy production, transport and recreation; ii) harmonization
of hydrotechnical infrastructure operational instructions with catchment scale ecosystem processes; iii)
consideration of the cultural heritage of the catchment as an important element for spatial reconnection of
floodplains to the adjacent landscape, as well as restoration of links to social, economic and cultural values; and
iv) shaping people's perception and attitudes to the changing environment based on integrative science which
depend on development of programs and methodologies for education and communication. Following this idea,
a “Declaration on Sustainable Floodplain Management” (“Floodplain declaration”) was developed
by the International Conference on Ecohydrological Processes and Sustainable Floodplain Management in Lodz,
Poland (May 2008). The declaration proposes using ecohydrology - a holistic problem-solving concept - for
floodplain sustainable management. Applying ecohydrology-based system approaches and foresight and
learning alliances methodologies should increase the resilience of catchment and freshwater resources, enhance
ecosystem services, and improve human health and the quality of life following the UN MDGs.
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ecohydrology, floodplain management, floodplain declaration, policy
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