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Butler Is an Author of U.N. Report with Blunt Warning About Coastal Mismanagement

Marine ecologist Mark Butler of Old Dominion University is one of the authors of a worldwide coastal management assessment that warns of a looming disaster if communities and countries do not cooperate to stop the degradation of marine environments. The report was released Wednesday, June 4, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The strongly worded assessment was prepared by experts affiliated with the International Network on Water, Environment and Health (INWEH) at the United Nations University.

"By 2050, 91 percent of the world's coastlines will have been impacted by development," according to the report. It contends that "much coastal development is poorly planned and all of it, as well as much inland development, impacts the coastal ocean."

Five trends are to blame, the experts say:

· Intensification of large-scale agriculture, driven by global agricultural production, including bio-fuels, contributes to over-nutrification and the creation of offshore "dead zones";

· Rising pollution and the influx of exotic species due to shipping and commerce;

· Ill-planned tourism in ecologically sensitive areas, that often causes irreversible damage;

· Development that destroys vital near-shore environments, alters patterns of water movement and disrupts ecosystem functioning; and

· Over-fishing, which, in combination with damage to the coastal nursery grounds of many fishery species, is already causing far-reaching consequences for economies and ecosystems.

Butler, who is professor of biological sciences at ODU, has done research in coastal waters worldwide. His current work includes studies of the effects of over-fishing and environmental changes-such as global warming-on blue crabs, Caribbean spiny lobsters and other marine species. He also is among a select group of researchers working on a World Bank Global Environmental Fund (GEF) project to help improve coral reef sustainability and management. The authors note in their acknowledgements that they came together as participants in the GEF coral reef project.

Most people fail to appreciate the economic and aesthetic value that a sustainably managed coastal environment provides, and also do not understand how complicated that management can be, according to the report. "What worked yesterday will not be adequate tomorrow," it says.

Recommendations are for better coordination between communities and countries in coastal zone management and for rigorously holding local and national governments accountable for their management failures. The authors say that a combination of scientific and traditional knowledge needs to be tapped in the preparation of coastal management plans.

Authors of the report include Peter Sale, assistant director, and Hanneke Van Lavieren, program officer, for the INWEH at the U.N. University in Hamilton, Canada. Others are Butler; Anthony J. Hooten of AJH Environmental Services in Bethesda, Md.; Jacob P. Kritzer, senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, Boston, Mass.; Ken Lindeman, Florida Institute of Technology; Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, University of Hong Kong; and Bob Steneck, University of Maine.

"It is past time to implement truly integrated coastal zone management around the world," says INWEH Director Zafar Adeel. "Management must be scaled appropriately to ecology and political jurisdiction boundaries must be eliminated as borders for management actions."

This article was posted on: June 5, 2008

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