Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amazon Freshwater Ecosystems Are Vulnerable to Degradation

04.02.2013
A study published in Conservation Letters this week found that freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. River, lake and wetland ecosystems—encompassing approximately one-fifth of the Amazon basin area—are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species.

The study was led by Dr. Leandro Castello, a research associate at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), in collaboration with scientists from various institutions in the United States and Brazil. These included the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Damage to Amazon freshwater ecosystems greatly impacts Amazonians, who historically have been so dependent on freshwater ecosystem goods and services that they have been called ‘water peoples.’ Current per capita fish consumption in the Brazilian Amazon averages 94 kg/yr in riverine populations, which is almost six times the world average. Increasing fishing pressure has shrunk the size of harvested species, partly due to the progressive depletion of high-value, large-bodied species. A century ago, the mean maximum body length of the main species harvested in the basin was ~206 cm—today it is ~79 cm.

Science and policy in the Amazon have focused largely on forests and their associated biodiversity and carbon stocks. Three decades of effort have generated an understanding of some key biophysical transitions in the basin, and established a network of protected areas, largely designed to preserve forests and their biodiversity. Little attention has been paid to freshwater ecosystems, which through the hydrological cycle are interconnected to other ecosystems at local and distant locations, being highly sensitive to a broad array of human impacts.

“Despite some terrestrial protections that are high by global standards, this paper shows key gaps in protection for the Amazon’s freshwater systems and species,” commented Robin Abell, the Senior Freshwater Conservation Biologist at World Wildlife Fund. The Madeira River basin, for example, is threatened by oil exploration, deforestation and dams in its headwaters, even though protected areas cover 26% of the catchment area. “The pressures that the authors detail need to be addressed now, before conservation opportunities are lost. Restoration can be far costlier than proactive protection,” cautioned Abell.

The principal threat to most Amazon freshwater ecosystems is large-scale alteration of the basin’s natural hydrology. “There are a total of 154 hydroelectric dams in operation, 21 in construction, and plans to construct 277 additional dams in the future. There are also thousands of small dams located in small streams to provide water for cattle,” noted coauthor Marcia Macedo of WHRC. “These infrastructure projects, together with deforestation-induced changes to regional rainfall, could fundamentally change the hydrology of Amazon freshwater systems,” she added. The study suggests that, if uncontrolled, such hydrological alterations could disrupt fish migrations and associated fishery yields, threatening riverine livelihoods and food security.

Adequate protection of Amazon freshwater ecosystems requires broadening the forest-centric focus of prevailing environmental management and conservation strategies to encompass aquatic ecosystems. By building upon existing protected areas, it is possible to develop a river catchment-based conservation framework that protects both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, effectively protecting the Amazon river-forest system. The Amazon watershed spans six countries, with Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru accounting for most of the area. Therefore, "A pan-Amazonian, catchment-based approach is critical, in addition to national conservation and management efforts," said coauthor Dr. Laura Hess of Earth Research Institute, UCSB.

“There are environmental issues everywhere, but the case with Amazon freshwater ecosystems is different, because no one talks about it. Their problem has been concealed,” said Castello. Emphasizing the need for a shift, he added, “Significant strides in Amazon conservation have been on deforestation because deforestation has been studied and monitored year after year. We now need to do the same for these aquatic ecosystems.”

The study can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12008/abstract

A map and the images can also be accessed here:
http://whrc.org/news/pressroom/index.html
Castello, L., McGrath, D.G., Hess, L.L., Coe, M.T., Lefebvre, P.A., Petry, P., Macedo, M.N., Reno, V., Arantes, C.C. 2012. The vulnerability of Amazon freshwater ecosystems. Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/conl.12008

Ian Vorster | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.whrc.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>