Sustainable Development of Watersheds: Using Sturgeon Species as an Indicator in Integrated Transboundary Water Management in the Ural River Basin
River basins are the most appropriate geographical units for considering the management of water resources. At the same time rivers and their associated ecosystems and biodiversity provide the basis of life for a large portion of the world’s population. Though there is now an international consensus on the need for an integrated approach to sustainable river basin management, there is no standard definition of the term “sustainable” nor consensus on how to reach this state.
Sustainable development of watersheds should consider three main components: economic, social and environmental, which can hardly be reached in real-life watershed management. One of the problems is the selection of sustainable watershed management indicators.
Using sturgeon species as a natural indicator and an incentive for transboundary IWRM cooperation in the Ural river basin is suggested. The only free-flowing river in the Caspian basin, the Ural River, is a unique ecosystem with a preserved natural hydrological regime and the last sturgeon spawning habitats.
Activities towards successful integrated water management will not only work towards sustainable watershed management, but also secure preservation and restoration of sturgeon, this worldwide flagship species. Community-based management of sturgeon stocks also resolves social and economic problems by restoration of the traditional life style of local communities.
High economic and social values of sturgeon allow the combination of both ecological and socio-economic aspects of sustainable development. Investment in IWRM and sturgeon conservation can be largely repaid later by “sustainable extraction” of sturgeon.
The Ural River Basin Project, which aims at sustainable watershed management and sturgeon restoration, is described in this paper. Special attention is paid to integrated assessment and modelling of the Ural river ecosystem.
KeywordsWatershed management river basin integrated water resource management indicator species sturgeon community-based environmental protection Ural river Cossacks integrated modelling
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