We live in a fragmented landscape. This would matter a lot less if human populations were sparse and ecosystems across the globe were in a healthy state. However, the exact converse is the case today: human numbers have exceeded seven billion with the fastest rates of growth in developing and often already environmentally-stressed countries, and the UN’s authoritative Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides solid evidence that virtually all major habitat types across the planet are substantially degraded with alarming implications for their continued capacity to support human well-being into the long-term future.
The causes of this fragmentation of landscapes, watersheds and seas are multiple. However, many, if not all, stem from the parochial way in which we have made decisions in the past. This parochialism extends beyond mere geographical localism, blind to wider-scale ramifications including for example localised flood defences exacerbating flooding elsewhere in inherently connected catchments or changing uses of land affecting water resources downstream.