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Special Issue "Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Geography and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2020) | Viewed by 30992

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Denielle M. Perry
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Earth & Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
Interests: climate adaptation & resilience; durable free-flowing river protections; environmental justice; hydropower; indigenous knowledge; political ecology; sustainability; water governance; Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Dr. Ian Harrison
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Conservation International and IUCN Biodiversity Assessment Unit, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
Interests: conservation; freshwater biodiversity; inland fisheries; Integrated Water Resource Management; international policy; protected areas; Sustainable Development Goals
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened part of the biosphere today. The Freshwater Living Planet Index shows increasing population declines of freshwater species, from an average of 76% decline of monitored populations in 2010 (WWF, 2014) to an 83% decline in 2014 (WWF, 2018). These declines are greater than those reported for terrestrial or marine species (WWF, 2016). Only 37% of rivers longer than 1000 kilometers remain free-flowing over their entire length, and only 23% flow uninterrupted to the ocean (Grill et al., 2019). While the causes for the degradation and loss of freshwater ecosystems are well known (Reid et al. 2019), responses to safeguard these systems have tended to be inadequate (Harrison et al. 2018). It is well accepted that there is an urgent need for stronger policies to support protection of freshwaters (Albert et al., 2020; Tickner et al., 2020; UN Water, 2020), especially given the resurgence of grey infrastructure projects such as dams touted as renewable energy sources and climate adaption (Perry and Praskievicz, 2017). Development and implementation of policies that promote riverine connectivity and that ensure effective environmental flows are some of the most important areas for action (Palmer et al., 2009).

This Special Issue highlights examples of permanent protections of free-flowing rivers, through the application of scientific research, law, policy, and on-the-ground implementation of conservation, restoration, and management strategies. We are interested in discussions relating to the protection of riverine ecosystems and the sustainable management of ecosystem services and benefits that these healthy ecosystems provide to support riverine communities. Papers can examine policies such as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Rights of Rivers, Rights of Nature, conservation easements, and transboundary and transnational cooperative agreements, among others. Papers may include analyses and discussions of new challenges for the protection of free-flowing rivers and the possible solutions to these challenges. We seek submissions that cover a range of spatial scales—from local to global. We expect to include a mix of both meta-analyses of river protection and policy and specific case studies that illustrate how these policies are created, implemented, enforced, and monitored. Papers can cover reviews of previous work, provided the information is synthesized into a set of novel or otherwise important observations and recommendations that can help toward better decision-making and management in the future. Discussions of site- and region-specific projects are welcome, especially if they examine regions that are generally underrepresented in literature on freshwater ecosystems and protection. However, such site- or region-specific publications should include discussion of how lessons learned can be applied to other areas. For example, how can the successes of catchment management in one part of the world be applied to other locations? What project weaknesses or failures can and should be avoided elsewhere? Evidence of conservation success is particularly important. Similarly, we welcome discussion on how existing river protections can guide recommendations for new local, regional, and global policy that can be brought to fora such as the World Wilderness Congress, and international conventions and agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Watercourses Convention, the Ramsar Convention, and the Convention on Migratory Species.

Expected timeframe for production

July 31, 2020

  • Submit a draft abstract and title

October 31, 2020

  • Deadline for submission of draft manuscripts

References

Albert, J.S.; Destouni, G.; Duke-Sylvester, S.M.; Magurran, A.E.; Oberdorff, T.; Reis, R.E.; Winemiller, K.O.; Ripple, W.J. Scientists’ warning to humanity on the freshwater biodiversity crisis. Ambio, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01318-8

Grill, G.; Lehner, B.; Thieme, M.; Geenen, B.; Tickner, D.; Antonelli, F.; Babu, S; Borrelli, P.; Cheng, L.; Crochetiere, H.; Ehalt Macedo, H.; Filgueiras, R.; Goichot, M.; Higgins, J.; Hogan, Z.; Lip, B.; McClain, M.E.; Meng, J.; Mulligan, M.; Nilsson, C.; Olden, J.D.; Opperman, J.J.; Petry, P.; Reidy Liermann, C.; Sáenz, L.; Salinas-Rodríguez, S.; Schelle, P.; Schmitt, R.J.P.; Snider, J.; Tan, F.; Tockner, K.; Valdujo, P.H.; van Soesbergen, A.; Zarfl. C. Mapping the world's free‐flowing rivers. Nature, 2019, 569, 215–221. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586‐019‐1111‐9.

Harrison, I.; Abell, R.; Darwall, W.; Thieme, M.L.; Tickner, D.; Timboe, I. The freshwater biodiversity crisis. Science, 2018, 362, 1369. https:// doi.org/10.1126/science.aav9242

Palmer, M. a., Lettenmaier, D. P., Poff, N. L., Postel, S. L., Richter, B., & Warner, R. (2009). Climate change and river ecosystems: Protection and adaptation options. Environmental Management, 44(6), 1053–1068. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-009-9329-1

Perry, D.M. and Praskievicz, S.J. (2017). "A new era of big infrastructure? [Re-]developing water storage in the U.S. West in the context of climate change and environmental regulation." Water Alternatives, 10(2): 134-151. http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol10/v10issue2/363-a10-2-13/file

Reid, A.J.; Carlson, A.K.; Creed, I.F.; Eliason, E.J.; Gell, P.A.; Johnson, P.T.; Kidd, K.A.; MacCormack, T.J.; Olden, J.D.; Ormerod, S.J.; Smol, J.P.; Taylor, W.W.; Tockner, K.; Vermaire, J.C.;, Dudgeon, D.; Cooke, S.J. Emerging threats and persistent conservation challenges for freshwater biodiversity. Biological Reviews, 2019, 94, 849–873. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12480

Tickner, D.; Opperman, J.; Abell, R.; Acreman, M.; Arthington, A.; Bunn, S.; Cooke, S.; Dalton, J.; Darwall, W.; Edwards, G.; Harrison, I.; Hughes, K.; Jones, T.; Leclère, D.; Lynch, A.; Leonard, P.; McClain, M.; Muruven, D.; Olden, J.; Ormerod, S.; Tharme, R.; Thieme, M.; Tockner, K.; Wright, M.; Young, L. Bending the Curve of Global Freshwater Biodiversity Loss – An Emergency Recovery Plan. BioScience 2020, 70, 330–342.
UN Water 2020. UN-Water input on Freshwater-Biodiversity Linkages: Response to the Zero-Draft Document from the Open-Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. https://www.unwater.org/publications/un-water-input-on-freshwater-biodiversity-linkages-response-to-the-zero-draft-document-from-the-open-ended-working-group-on-the-post-2020-global-biodiversity-framework/

WWF. 2014. Living Planet Report 2014: species and spaces, people and places. McLellan R., Iyengar L., Jeffries B. and Oerlemans N. (eds)]. WWF, Gland, Switzerland

WWF. 2016. Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and resilience in a new era. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland

WWF. 2018. In M. Grooten, & R. E. A. Almond (Eds.), Living planet report – 2018: Aiming higher. Gland: WWF. 

Dr. Denielle M. Perry
Dr. Ian Harrison
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Conservation 
  • Environmental flows 
  • Free-flowing 
  • Fresh water 
  • Policy 
  • Protection 
  • Restoration 
  • Rivers

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Article
Legal Protection Schemes for Free-Flowing Rivers in Europe: An Overview
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6423; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116423 - 04 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1087
Abstract
Most of Europe’s rivers are highly fragmented by barriers. This study examines legal protection schemes, that specifically aim at preserving the free-flowing character of rivers. Based on national legislation, such schemes are found in seven European countries: Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, France and Spain [...] Read more.
Most of Europe’s rivers are highly fragmented by barriers. This study examines legal protection schemes, that specifically aim at preserving the free-flowing character of rivers. Based on national legislation, such schemes are found in seven European countries: Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, France and Spain as well as Norway and Iceland. The study provides an overview of the individual schemes and their respective scope, compares their protection mechanisms and assesses their effectiveness. As Europe’s the remaining free-flowing rivers are threatened by hydropower and other development, the need for effective legal protection, comparable to the designation of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the United States, is urgent. Similarly, any ambitious strategy for the restoration of free-flowing rivers should be complemented with a mechanism for their permanent protection once dams and other barriers are removed. The investigated legal protection schemes constitute a starting point for envisioning a more cohesive European network of strictly protected free-flowing rivers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Adaptive Management of Malkumba-Coongie Lakes Ramsar Site in Arid Australia—A Free Flowing River and Wetland System
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3043; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063043 - 10 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2085
Abstract
The Malkumba-Coongie Lakes Ramsar Site has extensive terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems (largest Ramsar Site in Oceania, 2,178,952 ha, designated in 1987), including freshwater and salt lakes, lignum swamps and river channels in central Australia. It is supplied by Cooper Creek, a free-flowing Lake [...] Read more.
The Malkumba-Coongie Lakes Ramsar Site has extensive terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems (largest Ramsar Site in Oceania, 2,178,952 ha, designated in 1987), including freshwater and salt lakes, lignum swamps and river channels in central Australia. It is supplied by Cooper Creek, a free-flowing Lake Eyre Basin river system. The area includes pastoral leases (97% of site grazed, including a regional conservation reserve (35%)) and a National Park (3%), with the largest oil and gas production field in Australia. We developed a Strategic Adaptive Management (SAM) Plan, linking science, monitoring and management of this social-ecological system, involving stakeholders and workshops. This involved developing a shared vision and hierarchy of objectives linked to management actions and identified outputs and outcomes. We exemplify this approach with explicit and measurable end-points (thresholds of potential concern) culminating from low level objectives for fish communities, particularly the alien sleepy cod Oxyeleotris lineolata. We describe this framework, highlighting the benefits in prioritizing management actions and monitoring in collaboration with a diverse range of stakeholders, driving adaptive feedback for learning. The whole approach is aimed at successfully achieving mutually agreed management objectives and the vision to maintain the ecological character of the Malkumba-Coongie Lakes Ramsar Site. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Safeguarding Free-Flowing Rivers: The Global Extent of Free-Flowing Rivers in Protected Areas
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2805; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052805 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1518
Abstract
Approximately one-third of long rivers remain free-flowing, and rivers face a range of ongoing and future threats. In response, there is a heightened call for actions to reverse the freshwater biodiversity crisis, including through formal global targets for protection. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets [...] Read more.
Approximately one-third of long rivers remain free-flowing, and rivers face a range of ongoing and future threats. In response, there is a heightened call for actions to reverse the freshwater biodiversity crisis, including through formal global targets for protection. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets called for the protection of 17% of inland water areas by 2020. Here, we examine the levels and spatial patterns of protection for a specific type of inland water area—rivers designated as free-flowing. Out of a global total of 11.7 million kilometers of rivers, 1.9 million kilometers (16%) are within protected areas and 10.1 million kilometers are classified as free-flowing, with 1.7 million kilometers of the free-flowing kilometers (17%) within protected areas. Thus, at the global level, the proportion of rivers in protected areas is just below the Aichi Target, and the proportion of free-flowing rivers within protected areas equals that target. However, the extent of protection varies widely across river basins, countries, and continents, and many of these geographic units have a level of protection far lower than the target. Further, high discharge mainstem rivers tend to have lower extent of protection. We conclude by reviewing the limitations of measuring river protection by the proportion of river kilometers within protected areas and describe a range of mechanisms that can provide more effective protection. We also propose a set of recommendations for a more comprehensive quantification of global river protection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Global Analysis of Durable Policies for Free-Flowing River Protections
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2347; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042347 - 22 Feb 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2141
Abstract
Freshwater ecosystems are poorly represented in global networks of protected areas. This situation underscores an urgent need for the creation, application, and expansion of durable (long-term and enforceable) protection mechanisms for free-flowing rivers that go beyond conventional protected area planning. To address this [...] Read more.
Freshwater ecosystems are poorly represented in global networks of protected areas. This situation underscores an urgent need for the creation, application, and expansion of durable (long-term and enforceable) protection mechanisms for free-flowing rivers that go beyond conventional protected area planning. To address this need, we must first understand where and what types of protections exist that explicitly maintain the free-flowing integrity of rivers, as well as the efficacy of such policy types. Through policy analysis and an in-depth literature review, our study identifies three main policy mechanisms used for such protections: (1) River Conservation Systems; (2) Executive Decrees and Laws; and (3) Rights of Rivers. We found that globally only eight counties have national river conservation systems while seven countries have used executive decrees and similar policies to halt dam construction, and Rights of Rivers movements are quickly growing in importance, relative to other protection types. Despite the current extent of protection policies being insufficient to tackle the freshwater and biodiversity crises facing the world’s rivers, they do provide useful frameworks to guide the creation and expansion of protections. Ultimately, as countries act on global calls for protections, policy mechanisms must be tailored to their individual social and ecological geographies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Using Partnerships and Community Science to Protect Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Eastern United States
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2102; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042102 - 16 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1607
Abstract
The Musconetcong (New Jersey) and the Sudbury-Assabet-Concord (Massachusetts) are federally-designated Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers, a model for river conservation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. These two rivers are embedded in a patchwork of private and public land ownership. The Act [...] Read more.
The Musconetcong (New Jersey) and the Sudbury-Assabet-Concord (Massachusetts) are federally-designated Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers, a model for river conservation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. These two rivers are embedded in a patchwork of private and public land ownership. The Act has been used to facilitate partnerships among municipal, state, federal and local non-profit actors to implement river conservation plans. These partnerships have supported community science-based monitoring to make the case for dam removal and stricter water pollution controls. Two case studies examine using community science to provide actionable data to decision-makers. In New Jersey, a documented increase in macroinvertebrates post-dam removal supported additional dam removals, leading to the return of American shad to the river. Quality controls and training proved to be key components. In Massachusetts, stricter effluent discharge permits reduced instream Total Phosphorus from 0.8 mg/L in 1999 to the eutrophication threshold of 0.023–0.05 mg/L. Community engagement in river science and stewardship was an important co-benefit. As many US rivers evolve from generating hydropower and conveying waste into major recreational resources, local organizations are uniquely positioned to engage the public and generate quality-controlled data to use in advocating for major improvements in water and habitat quality. Useful policy and regulatory frameworks for broader applicability are suggested. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Durable Freshwater Protection: A Framework for Establishing and Maintaining Long-Term Protection for Freshwater Ecosystems and the Values They Sustain
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1950; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041950 - 11 Feb 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2978
Abstract
Long-term protection is needed to secure threatened freshwater ecosystems and the social and biodiversity values they provide. In the face of existing and future pressures, current approaches to freshwater protection are often inadequate for maintaining ecosystem values into the future. While terrestrial and [...] Read more.
Long-term protection is needed to secure threatened freshwater ecosystems and the social and biodiversity values they provide. In the face of existing and future pressures, current approaches to freshwater protection are often inadequate for maintaining ecosystem values into the future. While terrestrial and marine ecosystem protection are well recognized and have area-based protection goals in global conventions, freshwater ecosystem characteristics have remained poorly represented in these goals. Freshwater ecosystems are commonly secondary or unaddressed components of area-based terrestrial protection. The design and management for terrestrial-based protection are generally inadequate for addressing freshwater ecosystem processes and attributes critical for maintaining their natural patterns and the values they provide to people and nature. Given that freshwater-dependent species are declining at a faster rate than marine and terrestrial species, and the reliance and use of freshwater ecosystems by people living around such areas, approaches to protect them must balance the needs of people and nature and accommodate these complexities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Picking Up Where the TMDL Leaves Off: Using the Partnership Wild and Scenic River Framework for Collaborative River Restoration
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1878; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041878 - 09 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1749
Abstract
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects less than ¼ of a percent of the United States’ river miles, focusing on free-flowing rivers of good water quality with outstandingly remarkable values for recreation, scenery, and other unique river attributes. It predates the [...] Read more.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects less than ¼ of a percent of the United States’ river miles, focusing on free-flowing rivers of good water quality with outstandingly remarkable values for recreation, scenery, and other unique river attributes. It predates the enactment of the Clean Water Act, yet includes a clear anti-degradation principle, that pollution should be reduced and eliminated on designated rivers, in cooperation with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state pollution control agencies. However, the federal Clean Water Act lacks a clear management framework for implementing restoration activities to reduce non-point source pollution, of which bacterial contamination impacts nearly 40% of the Wild and Scenic Rivers. A case study of the Musconetcong River, in rural mountainous New Jersey, indicates that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act can be utilized to mobilize and align non-governmental, governmental, philanthropic, and private land-owner resources for restoring river water quality. For example, coordinated restoration efforts on one tributary reduced bacterial contamination by 95%, surpassing the TMDL goal of a 93% reduction. Stakeholder interviews and focus groups indicated widespread knowledge and motivation to improve water quality, but resource constraints limited the scale and scope of restoration efforts. The authors postulate that the Partnership framework, enabled in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, facilitated neo-endogenous rural development through improving water quality for recreational usage, whereby bottom-up restoration activities were catalyzed via federal designation and resource provision. However, further efforts to address water quality via voluntary participatory frameworks were ultimately limited by the public sector’s inadequate funding and inaction with regard to water and wildlife resources in the public trust. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Forested Riparian Buffers as Climate Adaptation Tools for Management of Riverine Flow and Thermal Regimes: A Case Study in the Meramec River Basin
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1877; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041877 - 09 Feb 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1223
Abstract
Ongoing and projected changes in climate are expected to alter discharge and water temperature in riverine systems, thus resulting in degraded habitat. Climate adaptation management strategies are proposed to serve as buffers to changes in air temperature and precipitation, with these strategies potentially [...] Read more.
Ongoing and projected changes in climate are expected to alter discharge and water temperature in riverine systems, thus resulting in degraded habitat. Climate adaptation management strategies are proposed to serve as buffers to changes in air temperature and precipitation, with these strategies potentially providing relatively stable protection for flow and thermal regimes. Using a hydrologic and water temperature modeling approach in the Meramec River basin in eastern Missouri, U.S.A., we examined the ability of forested riparian buffers to serve as a useful climate adaptation strategy against ongoing and projected changes in climate. We developed a multi-scale approach using Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) hydrologic and water temperature models as well as a Stream Network Temperature Model (SNTEMP) with different amounts of simulated riparian vegetation to estimate streamflow and water temperature variation within the Meramec River basin under both contemporary and projected future climate conditions. Our results suggest that riparian buffers offer benefits to mitigating increases in water temperature due to shading effects; however, patterns in discharge did not vary substantially based on simulations. From an ecological perspective, the addition of riparian buffers is also projected to reduce the impacts of climate change on Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) by decreasing the number of days water temperatures exceed the thermal tolerance of this species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
How to Protect Free Flowing Rivers: The Bita River Ramsar Site as an Example of Science and Management Tools Working Together
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1775; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041775 - 07 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1033
Abstract
The Orinoco river basin is the third largest river in the world by volume. Its catchment encompasses 27 major sub-basins including the Bita with a catchment area of about 825,000 ha, which originates in the Colombian high plains in the Llanos ecoregion. It [...] Read more.
The Orinoco river basin is the third largest river in the world by volume. Its catchment encompasses 27 major sub-basins including the Bita with a catchment area of about 825,000 ha, which originates in the Colombian high plains in the Llanos ecoregion. It has been recognized as a priority area for conservation through different gap analyses and overall determined to have good health according to the Orinoco report card 2016. The natural climate and hydrologic processes, and their synergies with flooded forests, savannas, wetlands, species diversity and local economic activities, are part of a dynamic and sensitive system. With the purpose of conserving the ecological, social and cultural benefits that it brings, the Colombian Government, with the support of regional and local civil society organizations, promoted the designation of a conservation area. Technical exercises were carried out including biological and socioeconomic surveys, local stakeholder consultations and future scenario modeling. In June 2018, the Bita River basin was designated as the largest Ramsar site in Colombia, providing a worldwide example of explicit protection of riverine systems. In order to maintain this free-flowing river, land use and fisheries management, in conjunction with other conservation actions, are being implemented and provide a model of protection for freshwater ecosystems that could be replicated elsewhere. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
What Do Environmental Flows Mean for Long-term Freshwater Ecosystems’ Protection? Assessment of the Mexican Water Reserves for the Environment Program
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1240; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031240 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2630 | Correction
Abstract
Almost a decade ago, the Mexican government targeted to establish environmental water reserves (EWR)—a volume of water allocated for ecological protection based on the Environmental Flow Mexican Norm (eflows, NMX-AA-159-SCFI-2012, ratified in 2017)—in strategic low-pressured for water use and high conservation importance river [...] Read more.
Almost a decade ago, the Mexican government targeted to establish environmental water reserves (EWR)—a volume of water allocated for ecological protection based on the Environmental Flow Mexican Norm (eflows, NMX-AA-159-SCFI-2012, ratified in 2017)—in strategic low-pressured for water use and high conservation importance river basins throughout the country. To date, 12 EWRs have been declared for up to 50 years, which encompass 295 river basins and ~55% of the national mean annual runoff (MAR). In this article, we conducted a quality evaluation of the EWRs established. First, the EWR level was analyzed against the MAR and according to wider hydrological conditions. The EWR fulfillment was evaluated by comparing the volumes enacted against the theoretical (Norm implementation). Our findings revealed that independently of individual and regional water use and conservation merits context, ~75% of the EWRs met theoretical volumes at least at an acceptable level, of which medians ranged from 24% to 73% MAR (natural parametrization and A–D environmental objectives). These outcomes prove the usefulness and consistency of the Mexican strategic hierarchical approach for eflow assessments. We aim for them to be considered as the baseline for future on-site eflow implementation and environmental water policy assessments, to show the nationwide potential benefits for protecting free-flowing rivers and to encourage a regional escalation of the strategy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Sustainable Management Options for Healthy Rivers in South Asia: The Case of Brahmaputra
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1087; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031087 - 21 Jan 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2234
Abstract
The Brahmaputra is one of the largest river systems of South Asia, providing life-supporting services to about 70 million people. Massive flooding, land erosion, over-exploitation of water, excessive fishing, habitat degradation and fragmentation, exploitation of flood plains, climate change impacts, absence of integrated [...] Read more.
The Brahmaputra is one of the largest river systems of South Asia, providing life-supporting services to about 70 million people. Massive flooding, land erosion, over-exploitation of water, excessive fishing, habitat degradation and fragmentation, exploitation of flood plains, climate change impacts, absence of integrated basin wide management, and transboundary cooperation are major challenges for the present and future sustainability and development in the basin. Although hydrological connectivity is intact in most of the main course of the river, the infrastructure development plans may convert the Brahmaputra to a predominantly managed river system. In this regard, this paper examines the physiographic, ecological, hydrological, and socioeconomic status of the Brahmaputra river, its transnational basin in South Asia, and the basin population in the cross-cutting context to explore its sustainable management options. For a durable future of the river and its communities, an integrated management mechanism among the basin countries with the objective of equitable benefit sharing, disaster risk management, and resilience building is needed. The suggested strategies will help in maintaining the ecohydrological health and utilitarian services of the river for the socioeconomic development of millions of poor and marginalized people living in the basin. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Identifying Riparian Areas of Free Flowing Rivers for Legal Protection: Model Region Mongolia
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 551; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020551 - 08 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1659
Abstract
Mongolia has globally significant biodiversity and pastoral traditions, and scarce water resources on which wildlife and people depend. Rapid growth of the mining sector is a threat to water resources and specifically river riparian zones. Mongolia has passed progressive laws for water and [...] Read more.
Mongolia has globally significant biodiversity and pastoral traditions, and scarce water resources on which wildlife and people depend. Rapid growth of the mining sector is a threat to water resources and specifically river riparian zones. Mongolia has passed progressive laws for water and habitat conservation, including establishment of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and river basin governance organizations, and laws protecting the river riparian zone, but implementation has been hindered by limited technical capacity and data-scarcity, specifically because consistent, accurate maps of the riparian zone did not exist. To address this gap, WWF-Mongolia and partners developed a national delineation of riparian areas based on a spatial model, then validated this with local river basin authorities and provincial governments to designate legal protection zones. As a result, 8.2 million hectares of water protection zones including riparian areas have been legally protected from mining and industrial development in the globally significant landscapes and riverscapes of the Amur, Yenisey, and Ob Rivers headwaters, the Altai Sayan ecoregion, and the Gobi-Steppe ecosystem. These findings demonstrate a pathway for implementing broad-scale, durable legal protection of riverine wetlands through a data-driven, participatory process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Article
Sustainable Floodplains: Linking E-Flows to Floodplain Management, Ecosystems, and Livelihoods in the Sahel of North Africa
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10578; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410578 - 17 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1272
Abstract
Floodplains are particularly important in the semi-arid region of the Sub-Sahelian Africa. In this region, water governance is still being developed, often without adequate information and technical capacity for good, sustainable water resource management. However, water resources are being allocated for use with [...] Read more.
Floodplains are particularly important in the semi-arid region of the Sub-Sahelian Africa. In this region, water governance is still being developed, often without adequate information and technical capacity for good, sustainable water resource management. However, water resources are being allocated for use with minimal sustainability considerations. Environmental flows (e-flows) include the quantity and timing of flows or water levels needed to meet the sustainable requirements of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. Holistic regional scale e-flows linked to floodplain management can make a noticeable contribution to sustainable floodplain management. The Inner Niger Delta (IND) in Mali is an example of a vulnerable, socio-ecologically important floodplain in the Sahel region of North Africa that is being developed with little understanding of sustainability requirements. Although integrally linked to the Upper Niger River catchment, the IND sustains a million and half people within the region and exports food to surrounding areas. The flooding of the Delta is the engine of the socio-economic development as well as its ecological integrity. This paper aims to demonstrate the contribution that holistic regional e-flow assessment using the PROBFLO approach has to achieving floodplain sustainability. This can be achieved through the determining the e-flow requirements to maintain critical requirements of the ecosystems and associated services used by local vulnerable human communities for subsistence and describing the socio-ecological consequences of altered flows. These outcomes can contribute to the management of the IND. In this study, the socio-ecological consequences of altered flows have been evaluated by assessing the risk of alterations in the volume, duration, and timing of flows, to a number of ecological and social endpoints. Based on the risk posed to these endpoints by each scenario of change, an e-flow of 58% (26,685 million cubic meters (MCM) of water annually) was determined that would protect the ecosystem and maintain indicator components at a sustainable level. These e-flows also provide sustainable services to local communities including products for subsistence and limit any abnormal increases in diseases to the vulnerable African communities who live in the basin. Relative risk outputs for the development scenarios result in low-to-high-risk probabilities for most endpoints. The future development scenarios include insufficient flows to maintain sustainability during dry or low-flow periods with an increase in zero flow possibilities. Although unsuitable during the low-flow or dry periods, sufficient water is available through storage in the basin to meet the e-flows if these scenarios were considered for implementation. The IND is more vulnerable to changes in flows compared to the rivers upstream of the IND. The e-flow outcomes and consequences of altered flow scenarios has contributed to the management of vulnerable IND floodplains and the requirements and trade-off considerations to achieve sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Correction
Correction: Salinas-Rodríguez et al. What Do Environmental Flows Mean for Long-Term Freshwater Ecosystems’ Protection? Assessment of the Mexican Water Reserves for the Environment Program. Sustainability 2021, 13, 1240
Sustainability 2021, 13(12), 6652; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126652 - 10 Jun 2021
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Abstract
The authors would like to make the following corrections to the published paper [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
Essay
Conserving the Paraguay-Paraná Fluvial Corridor in the XXI Century: Conflicts, Threats, and Challenges
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5198; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095198 - 06 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 842
Abstract
The Paraguay-Paraná river system represents a unique, free-flowing corridor that extends about 3500 km southwards from the Pantanal to the Rio de la Plata estuary, crossing four countries. The absence of fragmentation along the main channels and its still well-connected floodplains have preserved [...] Read more.
The Paraguay-Paraná river system represents a unique, free-flowing corridor that extends about 3500 km southwards from the Pantanal to the Rio de la Plata estuary, crossing four countries. The absence of fragmentation along the main channels and its still well-connected floodplains have preserved longitudinal and lateral functional and structural connectivity, defining critical ecological gradients for the biota and species life cycles. The lack of dams represents a noticeable feature that benefits migratory species supporting small-scale fisheries providing food security and the conservation of other ecosystem services with associated livelihoods. The ecological integrity of this corridor could be severely affected by the potential expansion of the Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná for improving commercial trade, the foreseen installation of new dams in the Paraná basin, in addition to other current impacts and threats. Conservation of the corridor for societal benefits, involving the sustainable development of activities associated with the use of the fluvial territory, requires maintaining the natural ecological process that sustains livelihoods and biodiversity. This calls for innovative strategies encompassing water governance process, social and environmental information related to expected impacts, a better understanding of synergies between processes, and foremost an interdisciplinary approach to design and apply integrative and multi-scale management policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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Essay
Identification of Priority Conservation Areas for Protected Rivers Based on Ecosystem Integrity and Authenticity: A Case Study of the Qingzhu River, Southwest China
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 323; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010323 - 31 Dec 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1454
Abstract
The establishment of protected areas for a river (PARs) is an efficient approach for the conservation of its ecosystem and biodiversity. This study selected the free-flowing Qingzhu River, located in the mountains of southwest China and one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, as [...] Read more.
The establishment of protected areas for a river (PARs) is an efficient approach for the conservation of its ecosystem and biodiversity. This study selected the free-flowing Qingzhu River, located in the mountains of southwest China and one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, as a case study. This study applied the ecosystem approach to develop a model for identifying priority conservation areas for a river (PCARs) based on integrity and authenticity. Three model elements were selected, namely streams, forest and human activity, characterized by three indicators: irreplaceability, tree cover and human activity, respectively. The spatial distributions of these indicators were overlaid according to different weights to generate a map (SCPV) of comprehensive protected value (CPV), which was used to indicate ecosystem integrity and authenticity in the study catchment. Lastly, PCARs were identified by comparing existing protected areas with the calculated SCPV. The application of the model to the Qingzhu River indicated the area of PCARs to be ~71.88 km2, accounting for 15.13% of the total PAR area. Priority reaches for protection were then identified, with many falling within the mainstem of the river in the middle and lower reaches. The total length of priority protected reaches was ~75.97 km, accounting for 49.33% of the total length of the river mainstem within Qingchuan County. This study validated the model at both the theoretical and practical level, confirming that the model is useful for facilitating the precise protection and smart management of rivers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Durable Protections for Free-Flowing Rivers)
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