International Conference "Halophytes for Green Revolution”, 16-19 April 2018
Today, 3.6 billion people live in water scarcity – that is, they are exposed to an insufficient water supply for at least one month per year. That is equivalent to the total global population in 1972 and half of Earth’s population today, an immense and growing number of people for whom the ability to access water for personal use and in agriculture is anything but certain.
Innovations are essential to addressing these challenges, and one approach that shows tremendous promise is halophyte utilization, a nature-based solution rooted in science, innovation and technology that can develop salinized land into highly productive systems.
These possibilities were explored at a recent UNESCO-supported event held at the Institute for Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU) of the University Karachi, “Halophytes for Green Revolution”, from 16-19 April 2018.
More than 70 percent of the Earth's surface comprises saline marine and coastal ecosystems. In addition, there are hundreds of millions of hectares of terrestrial salt-affected soils and more than 97 percent of the Earth's water is saline, most of it is hyper-saline seawater.
Halophytes can germinate, grow, produce flowers and seeds in saline mediums. More than 2,000 halophyte species are known to science, many of which have been researched for their salinity tolerance, ecology and biogeography.
Forward-looking pilot studies have been conducted to look into the possibilities of solutions such as floating mangroves and submerged seagrass terraces. These studies, discussed at the recent event, may well one day become a reality and provide essential ecosystem services for inhabited artificial islands.
Many artificial islands have already been built, with people living on them. Floating mangroves are capable of producing biomass based on seawater to use in the production of clean biofuel and to sequester atmospheric carbon. Participants at the Karachi event noted the importance of developing pilot studies to generate science-based data that will drive action and facilitate increased engagement with decision-makers and investors.
Halophyte utilization was highlighted for its potential to advance sustainable human development and, as a nature-based solution, one that directly reflected the themes of this year’s World Water Development Report.
Photos: The Pakistan Navy supported the event by organising a field-excursion into Karachi’s coastal mangroves.