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Concept: Drainage basin


True river dolphins are some of the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates. They comprise relict evolutionary lineages of high taxonomic distinctness and conservation value, but are afforded little protection. We report the discovery of a new species of a river dolphin from the Araguaia River basin of Brazil, the first such discovery in nearly 100 years. The species is diagnosable by a series of molecular and morphological characters and diverged from its Amazonian sister taxon 2.08 million years ago. The estimated time of divergence corresponds to the separation of the Araguaia-Tocantins basin from the Amazon basin. This discovery highlights the immensity of the deficit in our knowledge of Neotropical biodiversity, as well as vulnerability of biodiversity to anthropogenic actions in an increasingly threatened landscape. We anticipate that this study will provide an impetus for the taxonomic and conservation reanalysis of other taxa shared between the Araguaia and Amazon aquatic ecosystems, as well as stimulate historical biogeographical analyses of the two basins.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Species, Ecology, Drainage basin, Amazon River, Brazil, Amazon Basin, Amazon Rainforest


The increasing impact of both climatic change and human activities on global river systems necessitates an increasing need to identify and quantify the various drivers and their impacts on fluvial water and sediment discharge. Here we show that mean Yangtze River water discharge of the first decade after the closing of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) (2003-2012) was 67 km(3)/yr (7%) lower than that of the previous 50 years (1950-2002), and 126 km(3)/yr less compared to the relatively wet period of pre-TGD decade (1993-2002). Most (60-70%) of the decline can be attributed to decreased precipitation, the remainder resulting from construction of reservoirs, improved water-soil conservation and increased water consumption. Mean sediment flux decreased by 71% between 1950-1968 and the post-TGD decade, about half of which occurred prior to the pre-TGD decade. Approximately 30% of the total decline and 65% of the decline since 2003 can be attributed to the TGD, 5% and 14% of these declines to precipitation change, and the remaining to other dams and soil conservation within the drainage basin. These findings highlight the degree to which changes in riverine water and sediment discharge can be related with multiple environmental and anthropogenic factors.

Concepts: Drainage basin, Yangtze River, Chongqing, Dam, Three Gorges Dam, Hubei, Three Gorges, Yichang


Late Quaternary separation of Britain from mainland Europe is considered to be a consequence of spillover of a large proglacial lake in the Southern North Sea basin. Lake spillover is inferred to have caused breaching of a rock ridge at the Dover Strait, although this hypothesis remains untested. Here we show that opening of the Strait involved at least two major episodes of erosion. Sub-bottom records reveal a remarkable set of sediment-infilled depressions that are deeply incised into bedrock that we interpret as giant plunge pools. These support a model of initial erosion of the Dover Strait by lake overspill, plunge pool erosion by waterfalls and subsequent dam breaching. Cross-cutting of these landforms by a prominent bedrock-eroded valley that is characterized by features associated with catastrophic flooding indicates final breaching of the Strait by high-magnitude flows. These events set-up conditions for island Britain during sea-level highstands and caused large-scale re-routing of NW European drainage.

Concepts: Continent, United Kingdom, Drainage basin, Europe, Pleistocene, Geomorphology, English Channel, Strait of Dover


Increased catchment erosion and nutrient loading are commonly recognized impacts of deforestation on global wetlands. In contrast, an increase in water availability in deforested catchments is well known in modern studies but is rarely considered when evaluating past human impacts. We used a Budyko water balance approach, a meta-analysis of global wetland response to deforestation, and paleoecological studies from Australasia to explore this issue. After complete deforestation, we demonstrated that water available to wetlands increases by up to 15% of annual precipitation. This can convert ephemeral swamps to permanent lakes or even create new wetlands. This effect is globally significant, with 9 to 12% of wetlands affected, including 20 to 40% of Ramsar wetlands, but is widely unrecognized because human impact studies rarely test for it.

Concepts: Water, Soil, Wetland, Hydrology, Water cycle, Drainage basin, Wetlands, Ramsar Convention


Weakly-electric fish (Apteronotidae) produce highly diverse electrocommunication signals. Electric organ discharges (EODs) vary across species, sexes, and in the magnitude and direction of their sexual dimorphism. Gonadal steroid hormones can modulate EODs, and differences in androgen sensitivity are hypothesized to underlie variation in the degree of sexual dimorphism across species. In this study, we asked whether variation in androgen sensitivity explained variation in sexual dimorphism of EODs within species, at the population level. We examined two populations of black ghost knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons), one from the Orinoco and the other from the Amazon River Basin. EOD frequency (EODf) and chirp rates were measured to characterize diversity in sexual dimorphism across populations. The magnitude of sexual dimorphism in EODf differed significantly across populations, and was more pronounced in the Orinoco population than in the Amazon population. Chirp rates were sexually monomorphic in both populations. 11-Ketotestosterone (11-kT) was administered over a two-week period to assess population differences in sensitivity to androgens. 11-kT masculinized EODf significantly more in the population with the greater degree of sexual dimorphism. 11-kT had no effect on the sexually monomorphic chirping rates. We conclude that population divergence in androgen sensitivity contributes to variation in sexual dimorphism of EODf in A. albifrons.

Concepts: Estrogen, Sexual dimorphism, Drainage basin, Steroid, Amazon River, Apteronotidae, Black ghost knifefish, Ghost knifefish


The development of effective sediment management strategies is a key requirement in tropical areas with fast urban development, like Brasilia DF, Brazil, because of the limited resources available. Accurate identification and management of sediment sources areas, however, is hampered by the dearth of reliable information on the primary sources of sediment. Few studies have attempted to quantify the source of sediment within fast urbanizing, mixed used, tropical catchments. In this study, statistically verified composite fingerprints and a multivariate mixing model have been used to identify the main land use specific sources of sediment deposited in the artificial Lago Paranoá, Central Brazil. Because of the variability of urban land use types within the Lago Paranoá sub-catchments, the fingerprinting approach was additionally undertaking for the Riacho Fundo sub-catchment. The main contributions from individual source types (i.e. surface materials from residential areas, constructions sites, road deposited sediment, cultivated areas, pasture, farm tracks, woodland and natural gullies) varied between the whole catchment and the Riacho Fundo sub-catchment, reflecting the different proportions of land uses. The sediments deposited in the silting zones of the Lago Paranoá originate largely from urban sources (85±4%). Areas with (semi-) natural vegetation and natural gullies contribute 10±2% of the sediment yield. Agricultural sites have only a minor sediment contribution of about 5±4% within the whole catchment. Within the Riacho Fundo sub-catchment there is a significant contribution from urban (53±4%) source, such as residential areas with semi-detached housings (42±3%) with unpaved roads (12±3%) and construction sites (20±3%) and agricultural areas (31±2%). The relative contribution from land use specific sources to the sediment deposition in the silting zone of the Lago Paranoá demonstrated that most of the sediment is derived from sites with high anthropogenic impact.

Concepts: Sediment, Drainage basin, Erosion, Urban planning, Source, Land use, Land use planning, Fingerprint


This paper focuses on the evaluation of water quality variations in Hirfanlı Water Reservoir, which is one of the most important water resources in Turkey, through EO-1 (Earth Observing-1) Advanced Land Imager (ALI) multispectral data and real-time field sampling. The study was materialized in 20 different sampling points during the overpass of the EO-1 ALI sensor over the study area. A multi-linear regression technique was used to explore the relationships between radiometrically corrected EO-1 ALI image data and water quality parameters: chlorophyll a, turbidity, and suspended solids. The retrieved and verified results show that the measured and estimated values of water quality parameters are in good agreement (R (2) > 0.93). The resulting thematic maps derived from EO-1 multispectral data for chlorophyll a, turbidity, and suspended solids show the spatial distribution of the water quality parameters. The results indicate that the reservoir has average nutrient values. Furthermore, chlorophyll a, turbidity, and suspended solids values increased at the upstream reservoir and shallow coast of the Hirfanlı Water Reservoir.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Drainage basin, Map, Dam, Water quality, Total suspended solids, Cartography


The increasing availability of spatial data inspires the exploration of previously less-studied, yet regionally and nationally important areas, such as the Irrawaddy and Salween River Basins in Southeast Asia. This article documents our experience using global datasets to create environmental basin profiles in these two basins. Our approach draws on the concepts of freshwater vulnerability assessments that guided the selection of indicators. Data on land use, population distribution and fertilizer load were used. The unit of analysis was chosen to distinguish areas with similar bio-geographical characteristics, such as the critical delta areas. Results were further discussed for sub-areas that experience relatively the most pressure in terms of examined indicators within the studied area. The river mouths of both rivers had the most intensive land use and high population density. They are also home to important ecosystems and are sensitive to changes in upstream areas. Our study presents a concise and spatially distributed view of the environmental basin profiles of the Irrawaddy and Salween River Basins. The analysis also provides some interesting methodological insights about the potential of public macro-scale datasets for environmental assessment. The spatial approach allowed the analysis of different indicators, providing a platform for data integration as well as a visually powerful overview of the study area. Yet, the use of macro-scale datasets entails challenges. Despite improvements, the assessment process tends to be driven by the availability and quality of data, rather than by the actual research and management needs. The greatest utility of macro-scale datasets lies-at least in data-poor areas-in larger scale comparative analyses between the basins and their different sub-areas.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Assessment, River, Population density, Drainage basin, Analysis, Burma


As a giant newly built man-made canyon-shaped reservoir, the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) receives much attention around China and other parts of the world. Bays were deemed to be the most critical zone for water management of TGR; thus, a 3.5-year temporal and spatial investigation was performed to disclose water quality variation in TGR bays and to elucidate the potential affecting factors based on an integrated hydrographical analysis. The results showed that TGR bays had been moderately polluted with averaged nitrogen (N) concentration over 2 mg L(-1) and phosphorus (P) concentration less than 0.1 mg L(-1) in dry season and while high P over 0.2 mg L(-1) and low N of 1.54 mg L(-1) in average in flooding season. The interaction of dam regulation and flooding events influenced the temporal pattern of water quality in the TGR bays, in which particulate nutrients dynamic played an important role. Urban effluents and agricultural catchment area also influenced water quality in the bays, showing local spatial distribution characteristics via diffusion mechanism. Backwater ends might be the most critical areas of water quality degradation. Alleviation measures had been proposed for sustainable development of TGR region.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Water management, Hydrology, Drainage basin, Dam, Water quality, Water supply


The rapid rise in natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing increases the potential for contamination of surface and ground water from chemicals used throughout the process. Hundreds of products containing more than 750 chemicals and components are potentially used throughout the extraction process, including more than 100 known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We hypothesized that a selected subset of chemicals used in natural gas drilling operations and also surface and ground water samples collected in a drilling-dense region of Garfield County, Colorado, would exhibit estrogen and androgen receptor activities. Water samples were collected, solid-phase extracted, and measured for estrogen and androgen receptor activities using reporter gene assays in human cell lines. Of the 39 unique water samples, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, antiestrogenic, androgenic, and antiandrogenic activities, respectively. Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel antiestrogenic, novel antiandrogenic, and limited estrogenic activities. The Colorado River, the drainage basin for this region, exhibited moderate levels of estrogenic, antiestrogenic, and antiandrogenic activities, suggesting that higher localized activity at sites with known natural gas-related spills surrounding the river might be contributing to the multiple receptor activities observed in this water source. The majority of water samples collected from sites in a drilling-dense region of Colorado exhibited more estrogenic, antiestrogenic, or antiandrogenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in surface and ground water.

Concepts: Estrogen, Prostate cancer, Testosterone, Androgen, Drainage basin, Steroid, Natural gas, Androstenedione