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New open-access book on key debates, approaches and directions in river management

July 4, 2018

Clear waters in the Čunovo Dam on the Danube River in Slovakia. Image: Miroslav Petrasko | Flickr Creative Commons

Rivers across the world support rich biodiversity, yet are some of the most threatened global ecosystems, as a result of multiple pressures including pollution, water abstraction, habitat alteration and dam construction. As a result, river conservation and restoration are key topics for scientists, environmental managers and policy makers globally.

A new book Riverine Ecosystem Management: Science for Governing Towards a Sustainable Future provides a cutting-edge overview of contemporary approaches to river management. Available as a free PDF and ePub download, the book is edited by Stefan Schmutz and Jan Sendzimir from BOKU – University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences at the Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management in Vienna.

Key themes in river management

The book is split into four sections. The first gives an overview of some of the key themes in current river management, namely human impacts, mitigation and restoration. Historical human river uses and impacts are surveyed alongside a series of contemporary river pressures, including alterations to river morphology and hydrology, dam construction and hydropeaking, sediment dynamics, habitat fragmentation, nutrient pollution and recreational fisheries.

The section encompasses emerging threats to river health and status, particularly in chapters by Florian Pletterbauer and colleagues on climate change, and by Ralf B. Schäfer and Mirco Bundschuh on chemical pollution.


Diverse woody habitat on the Lafnitz River in Austria. Image: Graf & Schmidt-Kloiber

Approaches in contemporary river management

The next section provides examples of contemporary approaches for river management and governance. Again, the focus is extremely timely, covering relevant legislative frameworks, integrated river basin management, adaptive management and transboundary water resource management, alongside methodologies for sampling and archiving biological data, such as in Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber and Aaike De Wever’s chapter on Biodiversity and Freshwater Information Systems. Schmidt-Kloiber and De Wever outline the value of online networks for freshwater data such as the Freshwater Information Platform.

A theme that runs through the book is that river ecosystems should be understood (and managed) as integrated ‘social-ecological systems’ in which nature and culture interact. As a result, this second section provides guidance and resources on identifying ecosystem services in river basins, and in fostering public and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) engagement and education in river management. Chapters on this theme are written by Kerstin Böck, Michaela Poppe, Christoph Litschauer and colleagues.


Sunset on the urban Danube River in Vienna. Image: Carola Moon | Flickr Creative Commons

Case studies of river management

The third section provides five case studies of river basin management, which illustrate and tie together many of the themes outlined in the previous sections. Three aspects of water management – hydropower, floodplain dynamics and uses, and sturgeon populations – on the Danube River in Central and Eastern Europe are described. These three case studies – written by Herwig Waidbacher, Stefan Preiner, Thomas Friedrich and colleagues – give an indication of the many challenges associated with the environmental management of a large, transboundary river with diverse habitats and competing human interests.

In Burkina Faso in West Africa, Andreas Melcher and colleagues discuss the need for co-ordination of fisheries management at national and local scales, supported by ecological monitoring programs, as a means of supporting sustainable fisheries for local communities. Finally, on the lowland Tisza River in Eastern Europe, Béla Borsos and Jan Sendzimir outline the steps needed to develop an integrated land development (or ILD) management approach in a complex and dynamic river basin.


The frozen Tisza River at Szeged, Hungary. Image: Zoltán Bagi | Flickr Creative Commons

Adaptive and interdisciplinary approaches to managing river systems

In the fourth and final section, the editors draw the book together, emphasising the need for river management to understand the ways in which social and environment systems link and interact in river basins. They highlight the possibilities of new ecological monitoring techniques as well as data management and mining techniques to inform river management, but underline the need for management to be adaptive to an increasingly complex and uncertain world.

Co-editor Stefan Schmutz says, “Despite a rich history of publications on riverine ecosystem management, this book is the first to concisely convey to a broad audience of students, academics and practitioners the frontiers of science and policy for sustainably restoring and managing rivers.”

Co-editor Jan Sendzimir continues, “Unprecedented uncertainty from global change requires an approach that integrates riverine ecosystem understanding and management requirements and options within an interdisciplinary framework. This book applies such a framework to show through a number of case studies how ecosystem and management theories and applications can be successfully used to re-establish and sustain the functional vitality of riverine ecosystems.”


The Open-Access e-book

Arranged as a series of short, accessible chapters, and richly illustrated with colour photographs and diagrams, Riverine Ecosystem Management: Science for Governing Towards a Sustainable Future is likely to prove useful for water managers, academics, students, policy makers and NGOs. Its clear style makes it open to interested non-specialists, too. The e-book also helps communicate a variety of research findings from EU- funded projects, including AQUACROSS, MARS and BioFresh.

There is clearly demand for such a publication – so far the e-book has been downloaded over 53,000 times in two months. For anyone seeking to understand the key debates, approaches and directions in contemporary river management, this is an invaluable resource.

Riverine Ecosystem Management: Science for Governing Towards a Sustainable Future. Published by Springer (Open-Access)

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