The Protection of Freshwater Ecosystems Revisited: Towards a Common Understanding of the ‘Ecosystems Approach’ to the Protection of Transboundary Water Resources


  • Owen McIntyre


The possible implications of States adopting, or of general international law imposing, a meaningful ‘ecosystems approach’ to the protection and management of shared international water resources are far-reaching. However, the constituent elements of an ecosystems approach, as well as the practical means for its implementation, continue to emerge, though they have become increasingly well understood in recent years. Following the publication of an article ten years ago in RECIEL, this brief article sets out to update the reader on a number of key developments over the last ten years including, in particular: the proliferation of technical guidance on implementation of an ecosystems approach; recent focus on the need to safeguard ecological flows and the development of related methodologies; the emergence of the ecosystem services concept in international law and policy discourse; and the innovative employment of various ecosystem-oriented measures in national legislative frameworks in recent years.