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Happy new year from the Freshwater Blog: our Top 14 of 2014

January 2, 2015
FRESHWATER

Beneath the waterline. Image: Jack Perks

A happy new year to all our readers.  In 2014 we made a few changes to this blog, renaming it as The Freshwater Blog, and moving its editorship from the BioFresh project to MARS.

As ever, though, in 2015 we intend to bring you the same mix of features and interviews about why our global freshwaters are special, and what projects like MARS and SOLUTIONS are doing to help conserve and safeguard their future.  If you’ve any suggestions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email us: info [at] freshwaterblog.eu

For now, here’s fourteen of our most popular posts from 2014, we hope you enjoy them.

 

1. Introducing the MARS project

Part 1 | Part 2

 

2. What we talk about when we talk about uncertainty

flooding-cc-Cheltenham-Borough-Council-2007

The heavy floods in early 2014 in the UK have caused two fascinating social effects.  First, as freshwater breaks its usual bounds and becomes a risk to life and livelihood, a wider group of people become interested in how our water should be managed, and why.  Second, we begin to encounter complex ideas of uncertainty in understanding the drivers and causes of such flooding events and their interaction: heavy, sustained rainfall; urbanisation on the flood plain; silted, hydrologically inefficient (but perhaps, biodiverse) river channels.  What are the main drivers of these floods?  How do they interact?  And what measures should we prioritise for future management?” (link)

 

3. Meet the MARS Team: Sebastian Birk

Seb presenting to the  MARS kickoff meeting in Mallorca (photo: Christian Feld)

Seb presenting to the MARS kickoff meeting in Mallorca (photo: Christian Feld)

“Recently I read a newspaper article about the growing public awareness regarding environmental issues. Despite this, however, there is no effective halting of biodiversity loss in our freshwaters, and salmon shoals do not yet return to German rivers. This seems contradictory, but it is symptomatic of our modern-day society: walking the thin line between green consciousness and green-washing. I believe that MARS can provide a fundamental contribution to enhance sustainable management of our freshwaters for the benefits of humans and nature.” (link)

 

4. Bioindicators for Israel’s freshwaters: multiple demands and multiple stressors

Yellow water lily (Nuphar lutea) in the Snir River, Upper Galilee (Image: Wikipedia)

Yellow water lily (Nuphar lutea) in the Snir River, Upper Galilee (Image: Wikipedia)

“At present, much of Israel’s freshwater diversity remains un-catalogued – a shortfall that is particularly acute amongst smaller organisms such as insects, crayfish, snails and worms. Without knowing exactly what biodiversity is present, it is impossible to know what is being lost.” (link)

 

5. Beavers, ecological stress and river restoration

Reflecting on restoration (Image: Per Harald Olsen)

Reflecting on restoration (Image: Per Harald Olsen)

“In February 2014 a family of wild beavers were photographed on the River Otter in Devon, South West England by a retired ecologist. The animals are believed to be the first evidence of populations living and breeding outside captivity in England for over 400 years. Their (re)discovery prompts a number of questions for the form and function of British freshwaters. What impact will the beavers return have on freshwater ecosystems and human livelihoods? What reference conditions do we use to monitor and assess restoration and reintroductions? How can the new ecological stresses and processes caused by beavers be managed in such environmental restoration, if at all? These questions are central to the MARS project’s wider research on stress and environmental restoration.” (link)

 

6. Is there life on MARS?

Yellowknife Bay in the Gale Crater on Mars, where evidence of an ancient freshwater lake has been found.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Yellowknife Bay in the Gale Crater on Mars, where evidence of an ancient freshwater lake has been found. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

“Recent findings from NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission to Mars have suggested that a large freshwater lake, potentially capable of supporting life, existed on the planet around 3.5 billion years ago – around the time that life began to emerge on Earth.  So, as the MARS project works on Earth’s freshwaters, the Curiosity Rover is uncovering evidence of freshwater on Mars.” (link)

 

7. Can an ecosystem service approach strengthen river restoration?

River Ribble, Lancashire.  Image: RSJ

River Ribble, Lancashire. Image: RSJ

“Worldwide efforts to conserve river ecosystems are failing, and new approaches for stronger conservation planning are required.  This is the underlying context of a new editorial ‘Rebalancing the philosophy of river conservation’ by MARS scientist Steve Ormerod in Aquatic Conservation Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.  Ormerod suggests that the ecosystem service approach can offer a valuable addition to current river conservation strategies, potentially providing convincing new arguments to help halt freshwater biodiversity loss.” (link)

 

8. Why run a science blog? An interview with Paul Jepson

Screenshot from 'Water Lives...' animation (2012)

Screenshot from ‘Water Lives…’ animation (2012)

“One of the main values of the blog is as a node on a network of different people loosely connected with freshwater research, conservation and policy.  This network also includes wider interest groups: fishermen, aquarium keepers, wild swimmers and the general public. The blog becomes a place where all sorts of information can be pulled together and put across in a clear, engaging way.  I think ideally, it brings different people together to find out and celebrate the value of freshwaters.”

Part 1 | Part 2

 

9. When is a river not a river? Challenges for managing temporary waterways

Dry river bed near Mt. Seoraksan in Korea.  Image: Wikimedia

Dry river bed near Mt. Seoraksan in Korea. Image: Wikimedia

“Not all rivers and streams plot a constant course towards the sea.  Some naturally dry up when there is little rain, leaving behind a dry stream bed which floods the next time there is a heavy storm.  In fact, most river systems have areas where at least some of the river bed will dry up, usually for days, sometimes for months or years. A new journal article in Science by Vicenç Acuña and colleagues including BioFresh leader Klement Tockner argues whilst temporary rivers and streams are extremely important, both ecologically and culturally, they are not adequately managed and protected by current environmental policy.” (link)

 

10. Daylighting Urban Rivers

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, South Korea, daylighted from sewers in 2003.  Image: Kaizer Rangwala, Flickr.

Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, South Korea, daylighted from sewers in 2003. Image: Kaizer Rangwala, Flickr.

“Deculverting or ‘daylighting’ is the process of uncovering buried urban rivers and streams, and restoring them to more natural conditions. Daylighting can create new habitat for plants and animals, potentially reduce flood risks, and create new ‘green corridors’ through urban areas, a good example being the highly successful restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, South Korea. Adam Broadhead’s Daylighting website maps deculverting projects around the world as a means of sharing information on their outcomes and effectiveness.  We spoke to Adam to find out more about this fascinating and innovative project.” (link)

 

11. Do anglers makes good conservationists? An interview with Mark Lloyd of the Angling Trust

Salmon jumping Stainforth Force on the River Ribble, Yorkshire.  Image: Jonathan Bliss, Flickr

Salmon jumping Stainforth Force on the River Ribble, Yorkshire. Image: Jonathan Bliss, Flickr

“Anglers are the eyes and ears of the waterside.  They spot pollution and other problems before anyone else, and their knowledge of the water environment means that they can tell when something is wrong.”  Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust is putting the case to me in favour of anglers as good conservationists of Britain’s freshwaters. Do anglers make good conservationists, and does angling benefit conservation?(link)

 

12. An eye in the sky: using drone technology to monitor freshwaters

Aeryon Scout drone, increasingly used for mapping global environments.  Image: Wikipedia

Aeryon Scout drone, increasingly used for mapping global environments. Image: Wikipedia

“Developments in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology are providing new, potentially cost-effective opportunities for ecologists and conservationists to monitor and protect ecosystems, particularly in remote areas. As yet, there has been little research on the potential of drone technology for monitoring freshwater ecosystems.  However, a new journal article “The potential of remote sensing in ecological status assessment of coloured lakes using aquatic plants“ by MARS scientist Sebastian Birk and Frauke Ecke addresses this shortfall.  Their paper explores the potential of drones for monitoring the health of remote Swedish lakes.” (link)

 

13. Beneath the waterline: an interview with underwater filmmaker Jack Perks

Arctic char.  Image: Jack Perks

Arctic char. Image: Jack Perks

Underwater filmmaking has a rich – but largely oceanic – history, from Austrian biologist Hans Hass’s pioneering work in the 1940s and Folco Quilici’s 1954 first full-length full-colour film Sesto Continente through to stunning modern footage such as in the BBC’s Blue Planet series and in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. Jack Perks, an English natural history photographer and filmmaker, is attempting to bring freshwater environments into focus through his Beneath the Waterline project, which aims to document all of the UK’s freshwater fish on film.  Keen to find out more, we spoke to Jack about his work and the challenges of filming freshwater life.(link)

 

14. Introducing the MARS river and lake experiments

NIVA experimental flumes for studying extreme flows in Nordic Rivers.  Image: Susi Schneider

NIVA experimental flumes for studying extreme flows in Nordic Rivers. Image: Susi Schneider

“Freshwater ecosystems around the world are subject to multiple stresses on their health and diversity – for example, pollution, water abstraction and river fragmentation through dam building. Researchers from the MARS project are interested in understanding the causes and impacts of these multiple stresses, and – crucially – how they make interact and multiply any potential negative impacts on the environment.  Similarly, there is a need for research to simulate how multiple stresses might affect freshwaters under future climate change – how will changes to rainfall, temperature and storm frequency (amongst other factors) affect multiple stresses on freshwater ecosystems? In order to explore some of these questions, MARS researchers have set up seven experimental sites across Europe.” (link)

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