Socio-Ecological Considerations for River Restoration and Conservation through the Lens of Wild Rivers

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 May 2023) | Viewed by 9088

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Geography, University of Porto, 4099-002 Porto, Portugal
Interests: fluvial geomorphology; tectonic geomorphology; coastal geomorphology; river restoration; geoarcheology; GIS

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Guest Editor
Department of Geography, University of Santiago de Compostela, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Interests: fluvial geomorphology; river restoration; river management; remote sensing; GIS

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Rivers are hotspots for humanity because we all live inside a fluvial system. This means that any of our actions can have an impact on the health of rivers and, consequently, also on our health. However, the human role as a transforming agent in rivers is very rich and diverse. Nowadays, there is a general recognition of the environmental damage caused by the use and control of rivers (e.g., navigation, water and sediment consumption, power generation) and their catchments (e.g., land-use activity, settlements and structures, infrastructure). Moreover, in recent years, river restoration and conservation have been recognized as essential to achieving a balanced and sustainable socio-ecological system. In fact, one of the main challenges for the next decade is to develop new theoretical frameworks and practices for integrated human–landscape systems. Thereby, the new United Nations decade of ecosystem restoration was recently proclaimed, presenting new horizons for their conservation, coexistence and resilience.

Restoration and conservation science have moved from ecological to wider human benefit goals (i.e., socio-ecological considerations) and, in turn, from a paradigm based on a static reference to processes based on dynamic variables and their trajectory. Many studies have shown how a natural riverscape helps to maintain water quality, flooding protection or biodiversity (among others) in a sustainable way.

This Special Issue aims to address the question of how we can consider the nature of fluvial processes as a means of sustaining human wellbeing. In other words, what can we learn from wild rivers in terms of restoration and conservation? Here, we consider a wild river as a river system that is unmodified or slightly modified and therefore in near natural condition, where our cultural environmental is often inseparable from the natural riverscape (especially in western countries). In short, our objective is to examine our natural fluvial heritage in different ways in order to raise awareness and educate. We believe that restoration and conservation projects need to be driven by data in order to close the gap between ecological need and social urgency.

Dr. Alberto Gomes
Dr. J. Horacio García
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Fluvial land planning and management
  • Ecosystem services
  • Sustainable socio-ecological system
  • River resilience and climate change
  • Flood protection
  • River space consumption
  • Clean water supply
  • Sediment supply
  • Recreation, tourism and cultural importance
  • Spiritual and aesthetic value
  • Non-use service
  • Prioritize diversity (bio- and geo-) conservation versus minimizing human intervention
  • Naturalness versus wildness in rivers
  • Interactions among processes at different scales (e.g., riverine fish)

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

18 pages, 3109 KiB  
Article
Improving Public Action to Mitigate River Flooding in Niamey (Niger)
by Saidou Oumarou Mahamane, Amadou Oumarou and María José Piñeira Mantiñán
Land 2023, 12(8), 1523; https://doi.org/10.3390/land12081523 - 31 Jul 2023
Viewed by 636
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effects of repeated floods in the city of Niamey and the strategies developed by the state in terms of prevention, rehabilitation, and care for victims. Although numerous framework documents have been drafted in the [...] Read more.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effects of repeated floods in the city of Niamey and the strategies developed by the state in terms of prevention, rehabilitation, and care for victims. Although numerous framework documents have been drafted in the last decade and urbanization in flood zones has been limited, the reality in Niamey shows that urban sprawl is increasing along the riverbank and the population facing vulnerable situations is growing. The inefficiency of state action determines that, on the one hand, it is non-governmental institutions that need to develop improvement plans—with the recovery of the city being dependent on the arrival of their funds and their distribution in those areas that donor countries consider most suitable—and on the other hand, it is the citizens—already vulnerable—who must find their own resilience mechanisms to try to survive the next flood. This study reveals that this diversity of players is involved in flood management through emergency relief, solidarity in rehousing, and providing support for living and non-living flood victims. Despite this mobilization, the actions undertaken are hampered by a number of constraints. Insufficient financial and human resources, a lack of foresight on the part of the authorities, and poorly coordinated actions are the main difficulties limiting the success of public action in the face of flooding. Through a qualitative approach, combining documentary research, direct observation and semi-structured interviews, we analyze the mobilization of actors around the management of the effects of floods in Niamey. Full article
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23 pages, 2847 KiB  
Article
Why Consider Geomorphology in River Rehabilitation?
by Hervé Piégay, Fanny Arnaud, Barbara Belletti, Mathieu Cassel, Baptiste Marteau, Jérémie Riquier, Christophe Rousson and Daniel Vazquez-Tarrio
Land 2023, 12(8), 1491; https://doi.org/10.3390/land12081491 - 27 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1209
Abstract
River rehabilitation and ecological engineering are becoming critical issues for improving river status when ecological habitats and connectivity have been altered by human pressures. Amongst the range of existing rehabilitation options, some specifically focus on rebuilding fluvial forms and improving physical processes. The [...] Read more.
River rehabilitation and ecological engineering are becoming critical issues for improving river status when ecological habitats and connectivity have been altered by human pressures. Amongst the range of existing rehabilitation options, some specifically focus on rebuilding fluvial forms and improving physical processes. The aim of this contribution is to illustrate how geomorphological expertise and process-based thinking contribute to river rehabilitation success. This semantic contribution is intended to feed the rehabilitation debate, particularly concerning the design of actions and the proposed references for monitoring target reaches and evaluating rehabilitation effects empirically. This article is also based on lessons learned from practical cases, mainly in gravel-bed rivers. Geomorphic understanding is needed at a local level to achieve an adequate diagnosis of river functioning, estimate human impacts and potential remnant river responsiveness, and to assess the gains and risks from rehabilitation, as well as to appraise success or failure through several pre- and post-project assessment strategies. Geomorphological studies can also be upscaled in a top-down manner (from high-order controls to small-scale processes, understanding detailed processes in their regional or basin-wide context), providing large-scale information at the regional, national, or even global level, information that can be used to diagnose the health of riverscapes in relation to local site-specific contexts. As such, geomorphological studies support strategic planning and prioritization of rehabilitation works according to specific contexts and river responsiveness, so as to move from opportunistic to objective-driven strategies. Full article
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20 pages, 4668 KiB  
Article
Re-Imagining Wild Rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand
by Gary Brierley, Ian Fuller, Gary Williams, Dan Hikuroa and Alice Tilley
Land 2022, 11(8), 1272; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11081272 - 08 Aug 2022
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3013
Abstract
If wilderness is dead, do wild rivers exist and if so, in what form and in whose construction? This reflective article reviews perspectives on rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand as wild or tamed entities. A historical overview of the socio-cultural and institutional relationships [...] Read more.
If wilderness is dead, do wild rivers exist and if so, in what form and in whose construction? This reflective article reviews perspectives on rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand as wild or tamed entities. A historical overview of the socio-cultural and institutional relationships with rivers examines the meanings of rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand through multiple lenses. This includes indigenous Māori knowledge, command-and-control mentalities of a settler society that assert human authority over rivers, the emergence of the environmental movement and associated legislation with a sustainability focus (the Resource Management Act), and recent movement towards co-governance arrangements that incorporate the original intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840). It is contended that management practices have disconnected society from rivers, and vice versa, creating a sense of environmental loss (solastalgia), especially for Māori. Using rivers in the Greater Wellington Region as examples, prospects to accommodate wild river behaviour in Aotearoa New Zealand are explored. Recognising that re-wilding is no longer a feasible option in most instances, further attempts to tame rivers are also considered to be unrealistic, especially in light of climate change and accentuated flood risk. Reconnecting with indigenous knowledge offers prospects to re-imagine wild rivers in Aotearoa, living generatively with rivers as dynamic and emergent entities. Full article
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16 pages, 3039 KiB  
Article
Environmental Zoning in a Context of Strong Pressure from Productivist Agriculture in Brazil’s Northeast: The Case of the Ipojuca River, Pernambuco, Brazil
by Anderson Gomes Oliveira, Ricardo Augusto Souza Machado and Rubén Camilo Lois González
Land 2022, 11(5), 611; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11050611 - 21 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1289
Abstract
The purpose of this work was the conceptual elaboration of a proposed zoning based on the concepts of recovery, rehabilitation, and restoration, for the Ipojuca watershed, located in the state of Pernambuco, in the north-eastern region of Brazil. It also sought to bring [...] Read more.
The purpose of this work was the conceptual elaboration of a proposed zoning based on the concepts of recovery, rehabilitation, and restoration, for the Ipojuca watershed, located in the state of Pernambuco, in the north-eastern region of Brazil. It also sought to bring together a set of technical and normative instruments capable of being articulated in environmental policies that have river restoration as the main exponent of ecological and sustainability criteria. Data from the MapBiomas project, which aims to map the annual land cover and use in Brazil, and rainfall data from the stations located in the study area, were used as a basis for the zoning. From the combination of these databases, three sectors with similar characteristics were established, which served as the basis for the zoning. The overlap shown in these data confirmed the influence of the rainfall pattern on the characteristics of the land cover and pattern of use in each sector, where agricultural activities and urbanisation have played a decisive role in the degradation of water bodies and their bordering environments along the watershed. Full article
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17 pages, 1160 KiB  
Article
Using Photovisualizations to Gain Perspectives on River Conservation over Time
by Meryl Braconnier, Cheryl E. Morse and Stephanie Hurley
Land 2022, 11(4), 534; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11040534 - 06 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1308
Abstract
The Missisquoi River originates in a densely forested, hilly, and lightly populated region in northern Vermont, USA, flowing north until it crosses the Canadian border. The upper American stretches of the river are federally designated as “Wild and Scenic” in recognition of its [...] Read more.
The Missisquoi River originates in a densely forested, hilly, and lightly populated region in northern Vermont, USA, flowing north until it crosses the Canadian border. The upper American stretches of the river are federally designated as “Wild and Scenic” in recognition of its outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values. This paper reports on the place-based and river-focused perspectives of rural residents who live and work along the Missisquoi River and its tributaries and who are the recipients of Vermont’s shifting river management strategies. The mixed methods research drew on participant observation, interviews, and interpretations of photovisualizations (PVZs). The PVZ method identified the different geographical imaginaries held by residents and conservation professionals, demonstrating that PVZs can be used as a method to foster dialogue about sense of place and conservation initiatives. Visual aids can help unveil the complex, temporal relationships between landowners and the adjacent waterways, which in turn influence participation in river restoration efforts. Full article
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