Sweating the Small Stuff

E.O. Wilson
Thursday, December 8, 2011
From December 2011 World Rivers Review Renowned biologist E.O. Wilson grew up exploring the swamps and river bottom forests of Mobile, Alabama. Now in his 80s, his long and distinguished scientific career has included 40 years at Harvard and two Pulitzer Prizes. We talked to him about the biodiversity crisis. WRR: How important are the planet’s freshwater species to life on earth, and how are they faring? EOW: Freshwater systems harbor a large part of Earth’s biodiversity; and meter for meter, their species are even more endangered than those in terrestrial ecosystems. Rivers and thei

Broken Rivers, Broken Policies: Where to from Here?

Rivers need to be “unbroken” to maintain healthy habitats. Dams proposed for the Amazon, for example, would fragment the river in ways that would harm the region’s rich tapestry of life.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewFreshwater biodiversity is in a state of crisis. Recent efforts to protect and sustainably manage freshwater ecosystems have done little to offset the consequences of decades of human exploitation of rivers: large dams, water pollution and over-extraction. While the sources of water pollution can be found and stopped and over-extraction by irrigators can be curtailed, the consequences of building large dams across rivers are largely irreversible. Large dams permanently fragment riverine ecosystems by isolating species (both fish and mammals), interrupt

The Ecological Mysteries of Latin America’s Rivers

This tropical ladyslipper orchid only grows on limestone along streams at the base of the eastern Andes, in Ecuador and Peru.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewLatin America’s watersheds are rich in biodiversity, yet it is remarkable how much we don’t know about the ecology of these rivers. Aquatic and terrestrial species interact in still-mysterious ways, their relationships dependent on rivers’ patterns of flood and drought, of slow and fast currents, of sediment deposit and wetlands and mangroves creation. With the disruption of healthy riverine ecosystems from deforestation and damming, scientist’s opportunity to understand and appreciate these interactions is rapidly disappearing. Yet, plans to d

India’s Community Fish Sanctuaries Protect Wild Fish and Rivers

Waitarna Fish Sanctuary.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Waitarna Fish Sanctuary. Parineeta Dandekar From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewAs elsewhere around the globe, native freshwater fish diversity in India’s rivers is declining rapidly. About a third of the approximately 650 fish species found in India are threatened. Crucial reasons for this decline are destruction of habitats through dams and barrages, pollution, and exploitive fishing practices. Dams in India have converted flowing rivers into reservoirs, which have a profoundly different hydrological character than rivers to which indigenous species have adapted to. Species like Indian

Freshwater Biodiversity in India’s "Hottest Hotspot" in Peril

The rivers and wetlands of the Western Ghats support 174 species of dragonflies.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The rivers and wetlands of the Western Ghats support 174 species of dragonflies. K.A. Subramanian From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewIndia’s Western "Ghats," which means "river landing stairs" in Hindi, is a mountain range from which numerous rivers and streams flow. These waterways provide sustenance for the moist and fertile lands that surround them. The rivers are also home to diverse fish species, many of which are found only in these rivers. The Western Ghats is the world’s most heavily populated Biodiversity Hotspot, and its rivers provide approximately 400 million people with d

Why We Shouldn’t Dam the Mekong

Giant catfish
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Biological Treasure Trove is World’s Most Productive RiverGiant catfish Zeb Hogan From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewThe Mekong River is still a relatively healthy, natural, free-flowing river. It is one of the most biodiverse rivers on Earth (in terms of freshwater fish). Most of its habitats and connections between habitats are still intact. Remarkably, the Mekong is still capable of producing 2.6 million tons of fish a year, despite fishing pressures from millions of people who depend on the river for sustenance. That makes it the most productive river in the world. The Mekong is als

Swimming with Sturgeon

Thursday, December 8, 2011
From December 2011 World Rivers Review Several years ago I picked up the morning newspaper and came across one of those stories that forces you to sit down, breathe deep, and read on. No, it wasn’t the latest inter-governmental report on climate change forecasts nor a numbing reminder that the global economy is extinguishing species at an average clip of 200 per day. It was an article about Green Sturgeon. When I lived in Russia as a young man, I’d come to know this ancient and mysterious creature mostly through their roe, and their lore: a fish without bones (having taken a different evo

Saving the World’s Rivers: What Must Be Done?

Biodiversity the world over is threatened by changes to rivers. These Great One-horned Rhinoceroses live in India's Kaziranga National Park, which is threatened by dams planned in the Brahmaputra River Basin.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
From December 2011 World Rivers ReviewFlying across any continent today confirms that the world’s rivers are dominant features in the landscape, and are places where humans and animals gather to reap the many benefits and services they provide. Rivers of all sizes all over the world have underpinned the process of human development. As we progress into the twenty-first century, this development process must now be reassessed. Across the world, we have mismanaged and in some places almost destroyed the core ecological fabric on which river health – and indeed our own survival – depend

Burma Government Suspends Megadam

On September 30th, the President of Burma, Thein Sein, suspended what would have been Southeast Asia’s biggest hydropower project, the US$3.6 billion Myitsone Dam. The president attributed the unprecedented move as an effort to “respect the will of the people.” The project was being built by a Chinese developer, and nearly all the dam’s 6,000 megawatts of power was to be exported to China. The cancellation rewards more than five years of struggle by villagers, activists, scholars, and scientists in Burma. While it may come as a surprise to many – including the developer, China Power

Denudation of Swat

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This article was originally published in The News, Pakistan. Pakistan is passing through its worst energy crisis, and it needs more power plants to overcome it. Whenever there is need for more dams, what are now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan are invariably the sites for them because this part of the country is blessed with abundant water resources. However, what must be given top consideration in the planning and designing of these projects is that they are carried out in a way that the local population and the environment are not adversely affected. Nor should tourism suffer in wha


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