Christian Bréthaut


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Scientists' warning on extreme wildfire risks to water supply
François Robinne, Dennis W. Hallema, Kevin D. Bladon, Mike Flannigan, Gabrielle Boisramé, Christian Bréthaut, Stefan H. Doerr, Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Louise Gallagher, Amanda K. Hohner, Stuart J. Khan, A. M. Kinoshita, Rua S. Mordecai, João Pedro Nunes, Petter Nyman, Cristina Santín, Gary Sheridan, Cathelijne R. Stoof, Matthew P. Thompson, J. M. Waddington, Yu Wei
Hydrological Processes, Volume 35, Issue 5

2020 is the year of wildfire records. California experienced its three largest fires early in its fire season. The Pantanal, the largest wetland on the planet, burned over 20% of its surface. More than 18 million hectares of forest and bushland burned during the 2019–2020 fire season in Australia, killing 33 people, destroying nearly 2500 homes, and endangering many endemic species. The direct cost of damages is being counted in dozens of billion dollars, but the indirect costs on water-related ecosystem services and benefits could be equally expensive, with impacts lasting for decades. In Australia, the extreme precipitation (“200 mm day −1 in several location”) that interrupted the catastrophic wildfire season triggered a series of watershed effects from headwaters to areas downstream. The increased runoff and erosion from burned areas disrupted water supplies in several locations. These post-fire watershed hazards via source water contamination, flash floods, and mudslides can represent substantial, systemic long-term risks to drinking water production, aquatic life, and socio-economic activity. Scenarios similar to the recent event in Australia are now predicted to unfold in the Western USA. This is a new reality that societies will have to live with as uncharted fire activity, water crises, and widespread human footprint collide all-around of the world. Therefore, we advocate for a more proactive approach to wildfire-watershed risk governance in an effort to advance and protect water security. We also argue that there is no easy solution to reducing this risk and that investments in both green (i.e., natural) and grey (i.e., built) infrastructure will be necessary. Further, we propose strategies to combine modern data analytics with existing tools for use by water and land managers worldwide to leverage several decades worth of data and knowledge on post-fire hydrology.


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A novel tool for measuring the penetration of the ecosystem service concept into public policy
François Robinne, Louise Gallagher, Christian Bréthaut, Martin A. Schlaepfer
Ecosystem Services, Volume 36

• Little is known about the uptake of the ES concept into policy at a global scale. • GlobaLDES is an open-access database recording ES policy documents. • The database is crowdsourced by learners of a free online ES course. • 136 relevant documents were analyzed, 60% of them were originally not in English. • Many entries refer to multiple ES at once, with an accelerating uptake since 2011. The ecosystem services (ES) concept has gained traction amongst stakeholders involved in environmental regulation, yet little is known about the extent to which the ES concept has been translated into public policy. Here, we present a new online database of policy documents related to ES: GlobaLDES ( ). The database was created in 2016 and compiled through a crowdsourced process. Learners involved in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) were invited to submit documents that explicitly refer to ES. We included in our analysis documents related to laws, regulations, ordonnances, tax incentives, certification, and strategic planning. By early 2018 the database contained 136 relevant entries from 46 countries. Most examples (60%) were in a language other than English. More than 50% of entries addressed multiple ES or the link between biodiversity and ES. There was also a positive temporal trend towards inclusion of multiple ecosystem services. The GlobaLDES database represents the first known snapshot of the mainstreaming of the ES concept at a global scale. Our analysis suggests an accelerating adoption of the ES concept into policy. As the number of entries improves, GlobaLDES will serve as a useful benchmarking tool for monitoring the diffusion of the ES concept into policy-making.