World Rivers Review

Amazon River. Retrieved from:

“Flying 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 – depends. Human-caused stressors now endanger the biodiversity of 65% of the world’s river habitats, putting thousands of aquatic wildlife species at risk.

One of the most comprehensive studies of global rivers to date has examined human stressors on all the major rivers of the world. This study, published in September 2010 in the journal Nature, evaluated the state of the world’s rivers by taking into account the major “ecological insults” we impose upon them. The 23 threat factors used in this analysis all have well-documented impacts on human water security and aquatic biodiversity. These were grouped according to their effects on river ecological health and biodiversity, and on human water security. Each of these threats was weighted separately, which is important since the effects of a factor such as nitrogen pollution on fish, for example, are not the same as its consequences for human water security.

Using geo-referenced global databases jointly developed by the team, the combined impact of these multiple threat factors can be displayed graphically, demonstrating global conditions across the 99 million km2 of major river basins included in the study.”

Read more: International Rivers

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