Another Drop Lecture Series 2010

Browse the 2010 archive

Preserving Wetlands: Their Biochemical Contribution to Heath and Intelligence

Wetlands are under siege worldwide due to the effects of climate change (e.g. droughts and increasing water temperatures), farming practices, excess nutrients, and contaminants. Wetlands are also considered “valuable” because they are known to provide a variety of “ecosystem services”, for example: provisioning of drinking water, navigation and flood control, esthetic and recreational services, and mitigation of organic contaminants. One ecosystem service that has, so far, been under-appreciated is their ability to act as reservoirs and suppliers of essential nutrients. For example, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that has several unique properties. It comprises 40% and 60% of the PUFAs in the brain and retina, respectively, and 50% of the weight of the brain’s neuron plasma membranes. It has been shown to promote visual acuity and improve cognitive development (“intelligence”) in vertebrates. But where does much of the DHA in terrestrial organisms ultimately come from? Fish oils are rich in DHA, however, most of the DHA in fish and fish consumers (e.g. otters) originates from algae and generally becomes increasingly concentrated in aquatic organisms as it moves progressively up to higher levels in food chains. From there, essential nutrients (such as DHA and another fatty acid called EPA), can, by a variety of pathways, make their way onto terrestrial landscapes. It is important to document how these aquatic-terrestrial DHA transfers are brokered and to understand emerging threats to the global supply of these essential nutrients. Such an analysis leads to the conclusion that we must now add one heretofore unrecognized ecosystem service to the suite of services provided by wetlands; namely, the provisioning of essential PUFA to adjacent terrestrial systems. This newly recognized service provides conservationists and managers with a new outlook and justification for preserving our aquatic resources.

Speaker: Michael T. Arts (Environment Canada)


Contemporary Issues and Challenges Related to Water, Health and Environment in Uganda

Rural and urban populations in Uganda face different challenges of safe water supply and therefore need different approaches to intervention. Many of the larger towns in Uganda have piped water but because of low income, many households cannot afford to pay the bills let alone the cost of installing running water systems in their houses. Although there are plenty of water sources, the majority of them are not safe for consumption because they are contaminated by industrial and domestic waste. In urban areas, the contamination is caused by numerous pit latrines, direct sewer leakages, flooding (after heavy rains) and by industrial waste which is directly dumped into water bodies. In rural areas, people travel long distances to fetch water and it may be contaminated because it is used as a watering point for cattle, or a place where people bathe and wash clothes. A dynamic response to the challenges of safe water calls for diverse levels of interventions which include, among others, community awareness campaigns, protecting/safeguarding the water sources and poverty alleviation programmes.

Speakers: Dr. Edward Mukooza Kibikyo (Uganda Christian University), Dr. Frederick Kakembo (Uganda Christian University)