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4 - Crucial functioning of and human dependence on the global water system

from Part II - Living in a human-dominated world

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2014

Johan Rockström
Affiliation:
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Malin Falkenmark
Affiliation:
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Carl Folke
Affiliation:
Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm
Mats Lannerstad
Affiliation:
Stockholm Environment Institute
Jennie Barron
Affiliation:
Stockholm Environment Institute
Elin Enfors
Affiliation:
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Line Gordon
Affiliation:
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Jens Heinke
Affiliation:
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and International Livestock Research Institute
Holger Hoff
Affiliation:
Stockholm Environment Institute
Claudia Pahl-Wostl
Affiliation:
Universität Osnabrück
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Summary

The analysis in this chapter goes deeper into the core functions of the global water system (GWS), the role of water as the bloodstream of the biosphere and the key interactions between scales, including remote linkages or so-called teleconnections. It discusses how various changes in the Earth System could slowly make the GWS less resilient to shocks such as droughts, the key role of bidirectional interactions between water, land and vegetation, and local, regional and planetary boundaries. The chapter highlights three large-scale interactions that indicate long-term responses by the socio-ecological system to land-use changes in terms of so-called tipping points. It finally presents a comparative analysis of water and food security for a number of large river basins in Asia, Africa and South America.

The role of water as the bloodstream of the biosphere

Based on the principles outlined in Chapter 2, this chapter focuses on the roles of water as, at the same time, a state and a control variable in the GWS, interlinking different components and regions within the Earth System. We look at the different drivers of change, and how they affect water and water-related impacts and feedbacks as well as resilience at all scales.

The chapter first describes the role of water in biomass production and in all ecosystems, making it the ‘bloodstream of the biosphere’. Water links the different sub-systems of the Earth System through the different components of the hydrological cycle: evapotranspiration, advection, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, groundwater recharge and runoff (see Figure 4.1).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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