Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shifting Baselines Confound River Restoration

Date:
September 3, 2009
Source:
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Summary:
Historical records show that rivers worldwide once held many more fish and other fauna than they do today. Overharvesting seems to have been one principle cause of steep declines in recent centuries. Although it is hard to estimate historical numbers of freshwater wildlife with accuracy, efforts to determine earlier levels of abundance may help planners avoid using falsely low estimates as baseline assumptions. Restoration programs could investigate the effects of reintroducing extirpated species.

Steep reductions in the abundance of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic fauna in recent centuries are not restricted to animals that live in the sea: historical records show that species in rivers and lakes worldwide also experienced sharp declines. Yet the significance of these declines in freshwater species is frequently overlooked by natural resource managers, according to an article in the September 2009 issue of BioScience.

Authors Paul Humphries and Kirk Winemiller argue that as a result of this neglect of historical records, watershed planning is often built on estimates of baseline abundances of fish, freshwater mussels, and beavers that are much lower than actual past abundances. Planners consequently underestimate the likely far-reaching effects such animals had on their ecosystems before European colonization.

Although precise historical numbers cannot be known, written accounts dating from the 1600s suggest that abundances were much greater than they are today. Travelers and diarists reported rivers so full of fish that a spear thrown into the water only rarely missed one, salmon runs that spanned the whole width of a river, and fish so plentiful that they were used as pig feed.

Humphries and Winemiller point out that European colonizers in North America and Australia, in particular, could easily move inland from coastal communities to supplement their seafood with food taken from freshwaters. Then, within a few decades, they started constructing weirs and mills that impeded the migration of fishes and put further pressure on stocks. Stocks of fish and shellfish declined rapidly after colonization. The effects of this early loss of wildlife on the river ecosystems, the authors contend, has not been adequately considered.

Freshwater systems that have been little exploited seem to confirm the strong effects of fishing pressure in freshwater systems. Humphries and Winemiller cite the case of rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin, in central Australia, where fish are much more abundant than in comparable systems that are more heavily exploited.

Humphries, of Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia, and Winemiller, of Texas A&M University in College Station, support the reintroduction of top predators and keystone species recently extirpated from freshwaters, and urge the creation of freshwater protected areas. Some of these protected areas could be used for restoration experiments in which the effects of reintroduced species could be explored.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Biological Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Shifting Baselines Confound River Restoration." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090901082401.htm>.
American Institute of Biological Sciences. (2009, September 3). Shifting Baselines Confound River Restoration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090901082401.htm
American Institute of Biological Sciences. "Shifting Baselines Confound River Restoration." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090901082401.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins