Environmental scientists can work as effective "diplomatic actors" to help prevent conflict over transboundary environmental resources, particularly for water and wetlands, say environmental researchers Saleem Ali and Pamela Griffin.
Access to water resources in many regions is expected to worsen as a result of climate change and population growth, and management is difficult when wetlands are shared between countries. But science-based environmental cooperation can transcend political rivalries, say Ali and Griffin, avoiding water shortage conflicts.
Scientists can contribute to cooperation missions by working together on conservation, developing an agreed knowledge base about shared resources, and building capacity to use tools for peaceful wetland management such as the Ramsar Convention.
Also known as The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Convention is the first treaty to adopt an ecosystem approach to conservation. Of the wetlands listed with Ramsar, 234 cross country borders and 14 of these have official shared management systems; these include the Niumi-Salorim National Park and the Delta de Saloum between Gambia and Senegal.
The authors argue that a more proactive role for the Ramsar Convention could prove critical, particularly over water security concerns and the role of wetlands in hydrological conservation.
This needs to include scientists as part of environmental cooperation missions, say Ali and Griffin. Israeli and Palestinian scientists are currently working together on shared projects — from nanotechnology and heart disease to pesticide disposal — while the political situation remains tense.
"Further study of these transboundary sites and their impact on trust and confidence-building will help reveal their diplomatic effectiveness", the authors say.