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Natural resources

The challenge

An implicit goal of environmental research is about getting to know the human impact on the environment with a view to minimising its negative effects. As our economic growth and way of living is based to a large extent on the exploitation of natural resources, it is essential that we learn to better manage these resources to make sure our exploitation is not detrimental. Of these natural resources, water and forests are the most critical: avoiding biodiversity loss and prudent watershed and forest management are essential for our own well-being.

Research history and policy relevance

Water research has been a major component of EU research since the late 1980s, covering a wide spectrum of water-related topics and evolving over the years in close correlation to EU water policy. Early Framework Programmes mainly focused on enhancing scientific knowledge to support environmental quality standards and objectives and developing technologies for end-of-pipe treatment. They were mostly implemented through relatively small- and medium-sized projects that were then clustered to enable for integration and synthesis of results. However, by FP6, the clusters had been replaced by large-scale integrated projects and networks of excellence that could accommodate integrated and holistic approaches and better embrace the critical mass and multi-disciplinarity needed to address the complexity of the system. In addition, the focus had moved to advancing understanding of the ‘water system’ dynamics and functioning, enhancing our capability to predict its behaviour in view of changes (including climate change), and underpinning its sustainable management.

Natural resources management in FP7

Sustainable management of resources, which incorporates natural resources, is one of the four main activities of the FP7 work programme. Research into integrated resource management, water resources and soil and forest research desertification continue to be supported. Research will aim to strengthen collaboration among researchers, academics and the water industry to find the most cost-effective management measures for sustainable water resources management. Another research area focusing on integrated forest research is expected to build on previous efforts undertaken in sustainable forest resource management. FP7 research will aim to improve the knowledge base and develop advanced models and tools necessary for sustainable management of resources, helping to mitigate resource degradation.




Integrated watershed management
Water is a precondition for human, animal and plant life, as well as a necessary resource for the economy. It is essential to learn how to better manage this important resource to make sure the exploitation is not detrimental. Integrated watershed management is fundamental and helps us to protect the environment but also prevents damage from natural hazards. In fact, healthy watersheds will improve the quality of water supply, reduce flooding problems and increase opportunities for a sustainable and environmental education.

Forest management
Covering about one third of the EU’s land area, forests are an important element of its biosphere. They play a key role in biodiversity and critically affect the climate system, mitigating climate change, as well as influencing water cycles and reflectivity of the Earth’s surface. The need to preserve forest health and diversity, however, must be balanced against society’s rising demands for forest products and benefits. Sustainable forest management thus means assessing and integrating a wide array of sometimes conflicting factors – commercial and non-commercial values, environmental considerations and community needs.