The lost Saraswati River mentioned in the ancient Indian tradition is postulated to have flown independently of the Indus River into the Arabian Sea, perhaps along courses of now defunct rivers such as Ghaggar, Hakra and Nara. The persistence of such a river during the Harappan Bronze Age and the Iron Age Vedic period is strongly debated. We drilled in the Great Rann of Kachchh (Kutch), an infilled gulf of the Arabian Sea, which must have received input from the Saraswati, if active. Nd and Sr isotopic measurements suggest that a distinct source may have been present before 10 ka. Later in Holocene, under a drying climate, sediments from the Thar Desert probably choked the signature of an independent Saraswati-like river. Alternatively, without excluding a Saraswati-like secondary source, the Indus and the Thar were the dominant sources throughout the post-glacial history of the GRK. Indus-derived sediment accelerated the infilling of GRK after ~6 ka when the Indus delta started to grow. Until its complete infilling few centuries ago, freshwater input from the Indus, and perhaps from the Ghaggar-Hakra-Nara, probably sustained a productive marine environment as well as navigability toward old coastal Harappan and historic towns in the region.
Water management that alters riverine ecosystem processes has strongly influenced deltas and the people who depend on them, but a full accounting of the trade-offs is still emerging. Using palaeoecological data, we document a surprising biogeochemical consequence of water management in the Colorado River basin. Complete allocation and consumptive use of the river’s flow has altered the downstream estuarine ecosystem, including the abundance and composition of the mollusc community, an important component in estuarine carbon cycling. In particular, population declines in the endemic Colorado delta clam, Mulinia coloradoensis, from 50–125 individuals m(-2) in the pre-dam era to three individuals m(-2) today, have likely resulted in a reduction, on the order of 5900-15 000 t C yr(-1) (4.1-10.6 mol C m(-2) yr(-1)), in the net carbon emissions associated with molluscs. Although this reduction is large within the estuarine system, it is small in comparison with annual global carbon emissions. Nonetheless, this finding highlights the need for further research into the effects of dams, diversions and reservoirs on the biogeochemistry of deltas and estuaries worldwide, underscoring a present need for integrated water and carbon planning.
The Three Gorges Dam has significantly altered ecological and environmental conditions within the reservoir region, but how these changes affect bacterioplankton structure and function is unknown. Here, three widely accepted metagenomic tools were employed to study the impact of damming on the bacterioplankton community in the Xiangxi River. Our results indicated that bacterioplankton communities were both taxonomically and functionally different between backwater and riverine sites, which represent communities with and without direct dam effects, respectively. There were many more nitrogen cycling Betaproteobacteria (e.g., Limnohabitans), and a higher abundance of functional genes and KEGG orthology (KO) groups involved in nitrogen cycling in the riverine sites, suggesting a higher level of bacterial activity involved in generating more nitrogenous nutrients for the growth of phytoplankton. Additionally, the KO categories involved in carbon and sulfur metabolism, as well as most of the detected functional genes also showed clear backwater and riverine patterns. As expected, these diversity patterns all significantly correlated with environmental characteristics, confirming that the bacterioplankton communities in the Xiangxi River were really affected by environmental changes from the Three Gorges Dam. This study provides a first comparative metagenomic insight for evaluating the impacts of the large dam on microbial function.
Longitudinal connectivity is a fundamental characteristic of rivers that can be disrupted by natural and anthropogenic processes. Dams are significant disruptions to streams. Over 2,000,000 low-head dams (<7.6 m high) fragment United States rivers. Despite potential adverse impacts of these ubiquitous disturbances, the spatial impacts of low-head dams on geomorphology and ecology are largely untested. Progress for research and conservation is impaired by not knowing the magnitude of low-head dam impacts. Based on the geomorphic literature, we refined a methodology that allowed us to quantify the spatial extent of low-head dam impacts (herein dam footprint), assessed variation in dam footprints across low-head dams within a river network, and identified select aspects of the context of this variation. Wetted width, depth, and substrate size distributions upstream and downstream of six low-head dams within the Upper Neosho River, Kansas, United States of America were measured. Total dam footprints averaged 7.9 km (3.0-15.3 km) or 287 wetted widths (136-437 wetted widths). Estimates included both upstream (mean: 6.7 km or 243 wetted widths) and downstream footprints (mean: 1.2 km or 44 wetted widths). Altogether the six low-head dams impacted 47.3 km (about 17%) of the mainstem in the river network. Despite differences in age, size, location, and primary function, the sizes of geomorphic footprints of individual low-head dams in the Upper Neosho river network were relatively similar. The number of upstream dams and distance to upstream dams, but not dam height, affected the spatial extent of dam footprints. In summary, ubiquitous low-head dams individually and cumulatively altered lotic ecosystems. Both characteristics of individual dams and the context of neighboring dams affected low-head dam impacts within the river network. For these reasons, low-head dams require a different, more integrative, approach for research and management than the individualistic approach that has been applied to larger dams.
The decline of several of the world’s largest deltas has spurred interest in expensive coastal restoration projects to make these economically and ecologically vital regions more sustainable. The success of these projects depends, in part, on our understanding of how delta plains evolve over time scales longer than the instrumental record. Building on a new set of optically stimulated luminescence ages, we demonstrate that a large portion (~10,000 km2) of the late Holocene river-dominated Mississippi Delta grew in a radially symmetric fashion for almost a millennium before abandonment. Sediment was dispersed by deltaic distributaries that formed by means of bifurcations at the coeval shoreline and remained active throughout the life span of this landform. Progradation rates (100 to 150 m/year) were surprisingly constant, producing 6 to 8 km2 of new land per year. This shows that robust rates of land building were sustained under preindustrial conditions. However, these rates are several times lower than rates of land loss over the past century, indicating that only a small portion of the Mississippi Delta may be sustainable in a future world with accelerated sea-level rise.
Andes-to-Amazon river connectivity controls numerous natural and human systems in the greater Amazon. However, it is being rapidly altered by a wave of new hydropower development, the impacts of which have been previously underestimated. We document 142 dams existing or under construction and 160 proposed dams for rivers draining the Andean headwaters of the Amazon. Existing dams have fragmented the tributary networks of six of eight major Andean Amazon river basins. Proposed dams could result in significant losses in river connectivity in river mainstems of five of eight major systems-the Napo, Marañón, Ucayali, Beni, and Mamoré. With a newly reported 671 freshwater fish species inhabiting the Andean headwaters of the Amazon (>500 m), dams threaten previously unrecognized biodiversity, particularly among endemic and migratory species. Because Andean rivers contribute most of the sediment in the mainstem Amazon, losses in river connectivity translate to drastic alteration of river channel and floodplain geomorphology and associated ecosystem services.
A monitoring survey was conducted from August 2011 to July 2016 of the spatiotemporal distribution in the 400 km2 area of the northern part of Tokyo Bay and in rivers flowing into it of radiocesium released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident. The average inventory in the river mouth (10 km2) was 131 kBq⋅m-2 and 0.73 kBq⋅m-2 in the central bay (330 km2) as the decay corrected value on March 16, 2011. Most of the radiocesium that flowed into Tokyo Bay originated in the northeastern section of the Tokyo metropolitan area, where the highest precipitation zone of 137Cs in soil was almost the same level as that in Fukushima City, then flowed into and was deposited in the Old-Edogawa River estuary, deep in Tokyo Bay. The highest precipitation of radiocesium measured in the high contaminated zone was 460 kBq⋅m-2. The inventory in sediment off the estuary of Old-Edogawa was 20.1 kBq⋅m-2 in August 2011 immediately after the accident, but it increased to 104 kBq⋅m-2 in July 2016. However, the radiocesium diffused minimally in sediments in the central area of Tokyo Bay in the five years following the FDNPP accident. The flux of radiocesium off the estuary decreased slightly immediately after the accident and conformed almost exactly to the values predicted based on its radioactive decay. Contrarily, the inventory of radiocesium in the sediment has increased. It was estimated that of the 8.33 TBq precipitated from the atmosphere in the catchment regions of the rivers Edogawa and Old-Edogawa, 1.31 TBq migrated through rivers and was deposited in the sediments of the Old-Edogawa estuary by July 2016. Currently, 0.25 TBq⋅yr-1 of radiocesium continues to flow into the deep parts of Tokyo Bay.
Microplastics result from fragmentation of plastic debris or are released to the environment as pre-production pellets or components of consumer and industrial products. In the oceans, they contribute to the ‘great garbage patches’. They are ingested by many organisms, from protozoa to baleen whales, and pose a threat to the aquatic fauna. Although as much as 80% of marine debris originates from land, little attention was given to the role of rivers as debris pathways to the sea. Worldwide, not a single great river has yet been studied for the surface microplastics load over its length. We report the abundance and composition of microplastics at the surface of the Rhine, one of the largest European rivers. Measurements were made at 11 locations over a stretch of 820 km. Microplastics were found in all samples, with 892,777 particles km (-2) on average. In the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, a peak concentration of 3.9 million particles km (-2) was measured. Microplastics concentrations were diverse along and across the river, reflecting various sources and sinks such as waste water treatment plants, tributaries and weirs. Measures should be implemented to avoid and reduce the pollution with anthropogenic litter in aquatic ecosystems.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published almost 2 years ago
Meltwater runoff from the Greenland ice sheet surface influences surface mass balance (SMB), ice dynamics, and global sea level rise, but is estimated with climate models and thus difficult to validate. We present a way to measure ice surface runoff directly, from hourly in situ supraglacial river discharge measurements and simultaneous high-resolution satellite/drone remote sensing of upstream fluvial catchment area. A first 72-h trial for a 63.1-km2 moulin-terminating internally drained catchment (IDC) on Greenland’s midelevation (1,207-1,381 m above sea level) ablation zone is compared with melt and runoff simulations from HIRHAM5, MAR3.6, RACMO2.3, MERRA-2, and SEB climate/SMB models. Current models cannot reproduce peak discharges or timing of runoff entering moulins but are improved using synthetic unit hydrograph (SUH) theory. Retroactive SUH applications to two older field studies reproduce their findings, signifying that remotely sensed IDC area, shape, and supraglacial river length are useful for predicting delays in peak runoff delivery to moulins. Applying SUH to HIRHAM5, MAR3.6, and RACMO2.3 gridded melt products for 799 surrounding IDCs suggests their terminal moulins receive lower peak discharges, less diurnal variability, and asynchronous runoff timing relative to climate/SMB model output alone. Conversely, large IDCs produce high moulin discharges, even at high elevations where melt rates are low. During this particular field experiment, models overestimated runoff by +21 to +58%, linked to overestimated surface ablation and possible meltwater retention in bare, porous, low-density ice. Direct measurements of ice surface runoff will improve climate/SMB models, and incorporating remotely sensed IDCs will aid coupling of SMB with ice dynamics and subglacial systems.
Sedimentary dispersal systems with fine-grained beds are common, yet the physics of sediment movement within them remains poorly constrained. We analyze sediment transport data for the best-documented, fine-grained river worldwide, the Huanghe (Yellow River) of China, where sediment flux is underpredicted by an order of magnitude according to well-accepted sediment transport relations. Our theoretical framework, bolstered by field observations, demonstrates that the Huanghe tends toward upper-stage plane bed, yielding minimal form drag, thus markedly enhancing sediment transport efficiency. We present a sediment transport formulation applicable to all river systems with silt to coarse-sand beds. This formulation demonstrates a remarkably sensitive dependence on grain size within a certain narrow range and therefore has special relevance to silt-sand fluvial systems, particularly those affected by dams.