Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Stream


The discovery of large geometrical earthworks in interfluvial settings of southern Amazonia has challenged the idea that Pre-Columbian populations were concentrated along the major floodplains. However, a spatial gap in the archaeological record of the Amazon has limited the assessment of the territorial extent of earth-builders. Here, we report the discovery of Pre-Columbian ditched enclosures in the Tapajós headwaters. The results show that an 1800 km stretch of southern Amazonia was occupied by earth-building cultures living in fortified villages ~Cal AD 1250-1500. We model earthwork distribution in this broad region using recorded sites, with environmental and terrain variables as predictors, estimating that earthworks will be found over ~400,000 km2of southern Amazonia. We conclude that the interfluves and minor tributaries of southern Amazonia sustained high population densities, calling for a re-evaluation of the role of this region for Pre-Columbian cultural developments and environmental impact.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population ecology, Population density, Stream, Amazon River, Archaeology, Indigenous peoples


Weathering on mountain slopes converts rock to sediment that erodes into channels and thus provides streams with tools for incision into bedrock. Both the size and flux of sediment from slopes can influence channel incision, making sediment production and erosion central to the interplay of climate and tectonics in landscape evolution. Although erosion rates are commonly measured using cosmogenic nuclides, there has been no complementary way to quantify how sediment size varies across slopes where the sediment is produced. Here we show how this limitation can be overcome using a combination of apatite helium ages and cosmogenic nuclides measured in multiple sizes of stream sediment. We applied the approach to a catchment underlain by granodiorite bedrock on the eastern flanks of the High Sierra, in California. Our results show that higher-elevation slopes, which are steeper, colder, and less vegetated, are producing coarser sediment that erodes faster into the channel network. This suggests that both the size and flux of sediment from slopes to channels are governed by altitudinal variations in climate, vegetation, and topography across the catchment. By quantifying spatial variations in the sizes of sediment produced by weathering, this analysis enables new understanding of sediment supply in feedbacks between climate, tectonics, and mountain landscape evolution.

Concepts: Earth, Sediment, Climate change, Erosion, Stream, Vegetation, Road, Geomorphology


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.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Hydrology, River, Drainage basin, Stream, Amazon River, Freshwater, Geomorphology


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.

Concepts: Sediment, River, Estuary, Stream, River delta, Gravel, Geomorphology, Tokyo


Aquacultures are of great economic importance worldwide but pollute pristine headwater streams, lakes, and estuaries. However, there are no in-depth studies of the consequences of aquacultures on dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition and structure. We performed a detailed molecular level characterization of aquaculture DOM quality and its bacterial degradation using four salmon aquacultures in Chile. Fluorescence measurements, ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the DOM revealed specific and extensive molecular alterations caused by aquacultures. Aquacultures released large quantities of readily bioavailable metabolites (primarily carbohydrates and peptides/proteins, and lipids), causing the organic matter downstream of all the investigated aquacultures to deviate strongly from the highly processed, polydisperse and molecularly heterogeneous DOM found in pristine rivers. However, the upstream individual catchment DOM signatures remained distinguishable at the downstream sites. The benthic algal biovolume decreased and the bacterial biovolume and production increased downstream of the aquacultures, shifting stream ecosystems to a more heterotrophic state and thus impairing the ecosystem health. The bacterial DOM degradation rates explain the attenuation of aquaculture DOM within the subsequent stream reaches. This knowledge may aid the development of improved waste processing facilities and may help to define emission thresholds to protect sensitive stream ecosystems.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Molecular biology, Nuclear magnetic resonance, River, Stream, In vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Aquaculture, Geomorphology


The seasonal variations and spatial distributions of 4-tert-octylphenol (OP), 4-nonylphenol (NP) and bisphenol A (BPA) in surface waters, suspended solids and surface sediments in the Huangpu River and its tributaries (Suzhou River and Yunzao Brook) were firstly investigated. The mean concentrations of OP, NP and BPA in the three rivers were 10.59, 120.96 and 22.93 ng L in surface waters, 199.87, 2,300.87 and 84.11 ng g in suspended solids and 9.49, 119.44 and 7.13 ng g dry weight in surface sediments, respectively. The concentrations of NP and OP were higher in summer than in winter in the suspended solids and surface sediments, while the reverse was true in surface waters. Similarly, the levels of BPA were lower in summer than in winter in surface sediments, while the opposite was true in surface waters and suspended solids. These seasonal variations might be attributed to temperature and stream flows. High levels of OP, NP and BPA were found in surrounding river intersections, residential and industrial areas. Their concentrations decreased gradually with increasing distance from those areas, while the lowest levels were measured in near less urbanized and agricultural areas. These phenomena might indicate that the stream current and pollutant source were the major factors that affect the spatial distributions of OP, NP and BPA in the three rivers. Ecological risk assessment indicated that NP was the only one of the three pollutants with the potential to influence local aquatic organisms. The results of this study provide scientific support for control of these pollutants.

Concepts: Bisphenol A, River, Stream, Shanghai, Huangpu River, Suzhou Creek, The Bund, Geography of Shanghai


The Tuul River flows through the Ulaanbaatar basin of Mongolia and is the main source of water for the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The Tuul catchment can be divided into three parts around Ulaanbaatar (upper, middle, and lower), according to the extent of urbanization. Sixteen surface water and groundwater samples were collected to evaluate present-day water quality and 34 stream sediment samples taken to examine their geochemical composition in relation to provenance and to assess the impact of urban activity on heavy metal accumulation. Groundwater quality in the upper and central water sources was adequate, but high concentrations of NO (3) (-) were found in the lower water source. Heavy metal concentrations in the sediments are evaluated by comparison with average upper continental crust (UCC) values, coupled with ecological risk assessment by reference to sediment quality guidelines (SQG). The results show average abundances of potentially toxic metals such as As, Pb, Zn, Cu, Ni, Cr, and V are higher in the middle part (within the city) than in the upper and lower parts. However, all three parts show depletion in some chalcophile and high field strength elements (Cu, Ni, Cr, Sr, Nb, Zr, Th, Sc) relative to UCC, indicating that the river sediments were derived from a highly felsic crustal source. The assessment using SQG shows As and Cr are present in levels that cause adverse aquatic biological effects. Although concentrations of Pb, Zn, Cu, and Ni are generally below their respective threshold effect levels, in the middle reaches, values increase and border on the probable effect level. This suggests significant anthropogenic contamination in the urban areas, increasing values above a naturally low regional background.

Concepts: Evaluation, Water, Sediment, Water pollution, Stream, Water resources, Heavy metal music, Ulan Bator


Increasing eutrophication and algal bloom events in the Yangtze River Three Gorges Reservoir, China, are widely discussed with regard to changed hydrodynamics and nutrient transport and distribution processes. Insights into water exchange and interaction processes between water masses related to large-scale water level fluctuations in the reservoir are crucial to understand water quality and eutrophication dynamics. Therefore, confluence zones of tributaries with the Yangtze River main stream are dedicated key interfaces. In this study, water quality data were recorded in situ and on-line in varying depths with the MINIBAT towed underwater multi-sensor system in the confluence zone of the Daning River and the Yangtze River close to Wushan City during 1 week in August 2011. Geostatistical evaluation of the water quality data was performed, and results were compared to phosphorus contents of selective water samples. The strongly rising water level throughout the measurement period caused Yangtze River water masses to flow upstream into the tributary and supply their higher nutrient and particulate loads into the tributary water body. Rapid algal growth and sedimentation occurred immediately when hydrodynamic conditions in the confluence zone became more serene again. Consequently, water from the Yangtze River main stream can play a key role in providing nutrients to the algal bloom stricken water bodies of its tributaries.

Concepts: Water, Yangtze River, Stream, Chongqing, Three Gorges Dam, Hubei, Three Gorges, Yichang


SUMMARY Physical habitat structure can influence the distribution and abundance of organisms. In rivers, stream drift, a common process originating from the unidirectional water flow, favours the displacement and downstream dispersion of invertebrates. This process could also generate a gradient in infection levels, leading to decreasing numbers of parasites per host as one moves upstream from the river mouth. We tested this hypothesis using 4 trematode species infecting the fish Gobiomorphus breviceps in the Manuherikia River (New Zealand). We analysed the abundance of each trematode infrapopulation as a function of distance from the river junction and fish size by generalized linear models. Our results supported the existence of a longitudinal gradient in trematode abundance along the river with a decreasing downstream-to-upstream continuum. This applied to 3 out of the 4 trematode species studied, suggesting that this might be a common pattern in river populations. Thus, the unidirectional river flow and a major process like drift in lotic systems, that influences the dynamics and distribution of invertebrate hosts, can also affect trematodes. Host properties like habitat preference, and parasite traits, particularly those related to transmission mode can influence the strength of the observed gradient, as may other environmental and biotic factors.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Biology, Ecology, River, Stream, Flatworm, Trematoda


Widespread deforestation, agriculture, and construction of milldams by European settlers greatly influenced valley-bottom stream morphology and riparian vegetation in the northeastern USA. The former broad, tussock-sedge wetlands with small, anastomosing channels were converted into today’s incised, meandering streams with unstable banks that support mostly weedy, invasive vegetation. Vast accumulations of fine-grained “legacy” sediments that blanket the regional valley-bottom Piedmont landscape now are being reworked from stream banks, significantly impairing the ecological health of downstream water bodies, most notably the Chesapeake Bay. However, potential restoration is impaired by lack of direct knowledge of the pre-settlement riparian and upslope floral ecosystems. We studied the subfossil leaf flora of Denlingers Mill, an obsolete (breached) milldam site in southeastern Pennsylvania that exhibits a modern secondary forest growing atop thin soils, above bedrock outcrops immediately adjacent to a modified, incised stream channel. Presumably, an overhanging old-growth forest also existed on this substrate until the early 1700s and was responsible for depositing exceptionally preserved, minimally transported subfossil leaves into hydric soil strata, which immediately underlie post-European settlement legacy sediments. We interpret the eleven identified species of the subfossil assemblage to primarily represent a previously unknown, upland Red Oak-American Beech mixed hardwood forest. Some elements also appear to belong to a valley-margin Red Maple-Black Ash swamp forest, consistent with preliminary data from a nearby site. Thus, our results add significantly to a more complete understanding of the pre-European settlement landscape, especially of the hardwood tree flora. Compared with the modern forest, it is apparent that both lowland and upslope forests in the region have been modified significantly by historical activities. Our study underscores that generally overlooked subfossil leaves can provide important, local, temporally constrained paleoecological data, with much potential value in this case for stream and wetland restoration decisions in the mid-Atlantic region.

Concepts: Ecology, Wetland, River, Forest, Stream, Riparian zone, Stream bed, Northeastern United States