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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


A large region of low-dissolved-oxygen bottom waters (hypoxia) forms nearly every summer in the northern Gulf of Mexico because of nutrient inputs from the Mississippi River Basin and water column stratification. Policymakers developed goals to reduce the area of hypoxic extent because of its ecological, economic, and commercial fisheries impacts. However, the goals remain elusive after 30 y of research and monitoring and 15 y of goal-setting and assessment because there has been little change in river nitrogen concentrations. An intergovernmental Task Force recently extended to 2035 the deadline for achieving the goal of a 5,000-km(2) 5-y average hypoxic zone and set an interim load target of a 20% reduction of the spring nitrogen loading from the Mississippi River by 2025 as part of their adaptive management process. The Task Force has asked modelers to reassess the loading reduction required to achieve the 2035 goal and to determine the effect of the 20% interim load reduction. Here, we address both questions using a probabilistic ensemble of four substantially different hypoxia models. Our results indicate that, under typical weather conditions, a 59% reduction in Mississippi River nitrogen load is required to reduce hypoxic area to 5,000 km(2) The interim goal of a 20% load reduction is expected to produce an 18% reduction in hypoxic area over the long term. However, due to substantial interannual variability, a 25% load reduction is required before there is 95% certainty of observing any hypoxic area reduction between consecutive 5-y assessment periods.

Concepts: Drainage basin, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River, Rio Grande


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


Increased energy demand has led to plans for building many new dams in the western Amazon, mostly in the Andean region. Historical data and mechanistic scenarios are used to examine potential impacts above and below six of the largest dams planned for the region, including reductions in downstream sediment and nutrient supplies, changes in downstream flood pulse, changes in upstream and downstream fish yields, reservoir siltation, greenhouse gas emissions and mercury contamination. Together, these six dams are predicted to reduce the supply of sediments, phosphorus and nitrogen from the Andean region by 69, 67 and 57% and to the entire Amazon basin by 64, 51 and 23%, respectively. These large reductions in sediment and nutrient supplies will have major impacts on channel geomorphology, floodplain fertility and aquatic productivity. These effects will be greatest near the dams and extend to the lowland floodplains. Attenuation of the downstream flood pulse is expected to alter the survival, phenology and growth of floodplain vegetation and reduce fish yields below the dams. Reservoir filling times due to siltation are predicted to vary from 106-6240 years, affecting the storage performance of some dams. Total CO2 equivalent carbon emission from 4 Andean dams was expected to average 10 Tg y-1 during the first 30 years of operation, resulting in a MegaWatt weighted Carbon Emission Factor of 0.139 tons C MWhr-1. Mercury contamination in fish and local human populations is expected to increase both above and below the dams creating significant health risks. Reservoir fish yields will compensate some downstream losses, but increased mercury contamination could offset these benefits.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, River, Drainage basin, Natural gas, Methane, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming potential


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


Developing countries around the world are expanding hydropower to meet growing energy demand. In the Brazilian Amazon, >200 dams are planned over the next 30 years, and questions about the impacts of current and future hydropower in this globally important watershed remain unanswered. In this context, we applied a hydrologic indicator method to quantify how existing Amazon dams have altered the natural flow regime and to identify predictors of alteration. The type and magnitude of hydrologic alteration varied widely by dam, but the largest changes were to critical characteristics of the flood pulse. Impacts were largest for low-elevation, large-reservoir dams; however, small dams had enormous impacts relative to electricity production. Finally, the “cumulative” effect of multiple dams was significant but only for some aspects of the flow regime. This analysis is a first step toward the development of environmental flows plans and policies relevant to the Amazon and other megadiverse river basins.

Concepts: Hydrology, River, Drainage basin, Amazon River, Dam, Flood, Reservoir, Watermill


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