Post-print of: Sullivan, CA & Fisher, DE 2011, 'Managing wetlands: integrating natural and human processes according to law', Hydrological Sciences Journal, vol. 56, no. 8, pp. 1640-1655.
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Wetlands perform functions that are both hydrological and ecosystemic. Both humans and the natural environment benefit from these. However, wetlands need to be managed in a sustainable way to ensure that, not only the present, but also the future benefits continue to accrue. Sustainable management techniques will almost necessarily require a degree of legal involvement. Although the law can be used to control what humans do, it cannot control how the natural environment behaves; it can only control what humans do in relation to the natural environment. As human populations grow and water resources dwindle, this continuing dilemma will become increasingly severe. To address this issue, the challenge is to construct a set of legal arrangements that successfully integrate both the natural and human processes relating to wetlands. This may include, for example, consideration of: (a) the legal arrangements relating to water in wetlands; (b) how sustainability is to be achieved in the context of wetland management; (c) how to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of humans and those of the natural environment; (d) how the interests of the natural environment are to be protected; and (e) who has the power to control activities in relation to wetlands. By reviewing the structure of laws relating to wetlands at a variety of scales, these issues are addressed from a legal perspective, and a broad overview is provided of how wetlands may be recognized within a selection of legal frameworks. By using examples from international law and also from other regional and local jurisdictions, we demonstrate, from a legal perspective, how it is possible to achieve the integration of natural and human processes.