2021 Events

Behind the theme of NAU’s 4th Annual Student Water Symposium

WATER: World Action Towards Ecosystem Restoration

By Kaleigh Nuyttens and Monica Pech

Water is the simplest and most persistent need of living things, and yet it is anything but simple. Water is dynamic, powerful, and has endless local variations supporting complex ecosystems [1].  These ecosystems supply food, freshwater, and recreation to billions of people, protect us from droughts and floods, and provide unique habitat for thousands of plant and animal species. Freshwater ecosystems range from inland lakes and rivers teeming with fish to wetlands that filter and moderate water flows to mangrove forests shielding our coasts against tsunamis and erosion.

Yet, freshwater-dependent ecosystems are among the most threatened and altered on our planet. Roughly 33% of freshwater species are at high risk of extinction and around 75% of inland wetlands, renowned for their biodiversity, have been lost in the past century [2]. Despite the heavy losses in biodiversity sacrificed to the development of water resources, nearly 80% of the world’s population has precarious water security [3]. Meanwhile climate change is driving big infrastructure development to meet increasing demands for water and energy, further threatening to degrade already fragile freshwater ecosystems [4].

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is focused on preventing, halting, and reversing the degradation of continent and oceanic ecosystems. Goals aimed at addressing sustainability, biodiversity, and climate change cannot be achieved without accelerating restoration efforts [5]. The UN suggests that if 350 million hectares of damaged ecosystems are restored in this decade, 13-26 gigatons of greenhouse gases would be removed from the atmosphere and an estimated $9 trillion US dollars would be generated through the diverse services healthy ecosystems offer. Reaching this goal offers other co-benefits such as helping to end poverty and bring about environmental justice. On the other hand, inaction would cost the world economy three times more than the estimated cost of ecosystem restoration at this scale [6]. Taking the lead from the UN, we can promote ecosystem restoration as a driver of economic growth and collectively build a global culture that will encourage restoration initiatives [5]. The UN will officially launch the Decade on Restoration 2021-2030 on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021. Visit the website to learn more.

Inspired by the United Nation’s Decade on Restoration 2021-2030, NAU’s 4th Annual Student Water Symposium is promoting discussion around the restoration of freshwater ecosystems. On April 15-16, join us for keynote presentations, panel discussions, and a film screening centered on WATER: World Action Towards Ecosystem Restoration. Student presentations will cover a wide range of water-related topics.    

The Student Water Symposium is an annual student organized event established in 2018. The venue brings together graduate and undergraduate students from NAU with the greater Flagstaff community to engage in important discussions about water.

“The core idea here is that our engagements with nature impact not only on the natural world, but also on ourselves as society. This is particularly salient for water, which figures so importantly in our health, our production, our economy and culture—in the very fabric of our society” [7]. Jaime Linton


  1. Stevens, L.E., Schenk, E.R., & Springer, A.E. (2021). Springs ecosystem classification. Ecological Applications 31(1):e002218. 10.1002/eap.2218.
  2. Darwall, W., Bremerich, V., De Wever, A., Dell, A.I., Freyhof, J., Gessner, M.O., Grossart, H.P., Harrison, I., Irvine, K., Jähnig, S.C, Jeschke, J.M., Lee, J.J., Lu, C., Lewandowska, A.M., Monaghan, M.T., Nejstgaard, J.C., Patricio, H., Schmidt-Kloiber, A., Stuart, S.N., Thieme, M., Tockner, K., Turak, E., & Weyl, O. (2018). The Alliance for Freshwater Life: A global call to unite efforts for freshwater biodiversity science and conservation. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst. 2018;28:1015–1022. http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/aqc. Accessed February 2021.
  3. Cantonati, M., Stevens, L.E., Segadelli, S., Springer, A.E., Goldscheider, N., Celico, F., Filippini, M., Ogata, K., & Gargini, A. (2020). Ecohydrogeology: The interdisciplinary convergence needed to improve the study and stewardship of springs and other groundwater-dependent habitats, biota, and ecosystems. Ecological Indicators 110 (2020) 105803. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105803. Accessed January 2021.
  4. Perry, D.M., & Praskievicz, S.J. (2017). A New Era of Big Infrastructure? (Re)developing Water Storage in the U.S. West in the Context of Climate Change and Environmental Regulation. Water Alternatives 10(2): 437-454. http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol10/v10issue2/363-a10-2-13/file
  5. SER (Society for Ecological Restoration). (2020). Strategy of The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Policy Update. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ser.org/resource/resmgr/docs/ser_policy_update_un_decade_.pdf
  6. United Nations. (2021). UN Decade on Restoration. Accessed January 2021.
  7. Linton, J. (2014). Modern water and its discontents: a history of hydrosocial renewal. WIREs Water 2014, 1:111–120. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1009.