The Missing Piece in the Conservation Puzzle: Cohesion Among Environmental, Economic and Social Dimensions

  • Francisco A. R. Barbosa
  • Paulina M. Maia-Barbosa
  • Diego G. F. Pujoni
  • Lorena T. Oporto
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


Managing water resources efficiently is a difficult and complex task. This task will continue to challenge those who prioritise sustainable development over economic growth. In this report, we discuss two Brazilian case studies of national relevance that urgently require the application of new practices to achieve improved environmental quality and conservation. The first case study involves the middle Rio Doce Lake System (RDLS), which is composed of approximately 300 water bodies with distinct morphometric, physical and chemical features and a range of different land use types. Eighteen lakes (8 within Rio Doce State Park) have been studied since 2000 after the implementation of the Long Term Ecological Research Programme (Brazil-LTER site #4). The aquatic communities studied were highly diverse, with 481 algae species, 346 zooplankton species, 58 families of benthic organisms and approximately 30 fish species (7 of which are exotic). Furthermore, the results of this programme confirm that community dynamics and ecological processes, such as life-history strategies, primary production and decomposition, are determined primarily by the water mixing pattern observed in most of the lakes. The introduction of exotic fishes was responsible for the local extinction of 7 species of native fauna, with cascading events affecting lower trophic levels, resulting in a modified aquatic community structure and diminished water quality. Interviews with local fishermen demonstrated that they understand the environmental impact of exotic species and are willing to participate in management actions, thus promoting cohesion between social and environmental dimensions. Currently, our main challenge is to partner with local fishermen to test new management methods such as selective overfishing that are potentially capable of decreasing or even halting the impacts of exotic species introductions. To disseminate scientific knowledge to the fishing communities, an environmental education (EE) programme has been developed with different social groups (school teachers, students, prefectures’ technical staff and local residents) using participative techniques. This programme has the potential to improve residents’ understanding of regional environmental problems and to help them to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to change opinions, concepts, habits and practices. The second case study involves the use of water in mining activities in Brazil. These mining activities have led to an intense conflict of interest among different environmental, economic and social goals. Assuming that water in itself is a concept with multiple dimensions, it is important to develop cohesion among different goals to achieve sustainability. In short, conservation must evolve from its original “isolate to preserve” approach to the modern “use sustainably to conserve” approach, in which people are the major drivers and users of the resource management process.


Gross Domestic Product Exotic Species Critical Thinking Skill Conservation Unit Local Fisherman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco A. R. Barbosa
    • 1
  • Paulina M. Maia-Barbosa
    • 1
  • Diego G. F. Pujoni
    • 1
  • Lorena T. Oporto
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Limnology Ecotoxicology and Aquatic Ecology (LIMNEA)Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG)Belo HorizonteBrazil

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