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Sharing the Nile’s vital flow through 11 nations, water in the Arab region, spread of “world’s worst weed,” climate change and fisheries, among topics in special volume

The full collection of articles is available with open public access until end of 2014 at

The science-based management and governance of shared transboundary water systems is the focus of a wide-ranging collection of articles published in a special edition of the Elsevier journal Environmental Development.

The volume builds on a 2012 study of the use of science in roughly 200 GEF-supported transboundary water projects involving public investments of more than US$7 billion over 20 years.  GEF partnered with UNU and the UN Environment Programme to extract lessons from that huge project portfolio.  The volume is highlighted by papers detailing innovations in science-based management and scientific research authored by past or present projects from the portfolio.A collaboration of the Global Environmental Facility’s IW:LEARN project and the UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, the special open-access volume includes more than two dozen articles, available with open public access until the end of 2014 at

“This assembly of articles underlines the overarching lesson that science must play a central role in decisions and investments involving trans-boundary water issues,” says Zafar Adeel, director of UNU’s Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).  “At the heart of this are concerns of cardinal importance: food and energy security, adaptation to climate variability and change, economic growth and human security.”

Example articles:

Transnational water management in the Arab region

Arab regional governments need to adopt the holistic, ecosystem-based Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policies, say experts Ahmed Abou Elseoud, Secretary General of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), State Ministry of Environment, and UNDP Advisor Mary M. Matthews.  They warn that:

  • The threat of water scarcity is being exacerbated by climate change and a growing population;
  • Water projects are severely underfunded, complicating efforts to implement more sustainable water management policies; and
  • Water management responsibilities are decentralized and face difficulties in coordination.

Global warming changing the North Atlantic fisheries

Scientists forecast important changes to fish stocks in North Atlantic marine ecosystems where surface temperatures are trending higher in, for example, the North Sea but lower in the Humboldt Current.  These changes are a critical consideration in the development of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management.

Data show the largest temperature change underway in the North Sea, where waters were 1.38ºC warmer in 2009 compared with 1982. By comparison, waters in the Iceland Shelf are 1.02ºC warmer, the Gulf of Mexico waters are 0.27ºC warmer and the U.S. Southeast Shelf waters are 0.05ºC warmer.

There is a downward trend in fish yields in the North Sea, Celtic-Biscay Shelf and Iberian Coastal ecosystems, attributed to reduced zooplankton production, increased water column stratification, and reduced seasonal nutrient mixing in the upper water layers.

Coastal condition, Gulf of Mexico

Authors Gracía-Ríos et al. offer a case study to estimate the coastal condition in the Gulf of Mexico, including habitat degradation, water quality, sediment quality, fish, and benthic fauna.  Different parameters were measured for each module and categorized as being “good” (score of 5), “fair” (score of 3) or “poor” (score of 1). The Coastal Condition Index was calculated as the mean of the scores for all modules.

Governance challenges, Nile River Basin

Authors Paisley and Henshaw discuss the multiplicity of governance challenges in the transboundary Nile River Basin (extends through 11 countries) and propose enactment of a comprehensive international program of cooperation. Otherwise, the 300 million people who depend on the Nile will be confronted with even more profound challenges now and in the future.

Managing shared aquifers

Author Kettelhut outlines the lessons learned from the Guarani Aquifer, including the need to prioritize efforts especially in areas located at or near boundaries of countries. Priorities can be profound challenges because of information and knowledge gaps. The best way forward is for participating countries to address and implement actions as collaborators — an objective much easier stated than accomplished.

“Dynamic management” of large marine ecosystems

Authors Vousden and Stapley explore the innovative Science-Based Governance approach increasingly employed in the Agulhas and Somali Current large marine ecosystem. A “Dynamic Management Strategy” incorporating “weight-of-evidence” decision-making is part of the approach designed to fast track processes,  improve early warnings and make adaptive management feasible.

To read the full press release, click here.

To read the full journal, click here.