By Catherine Leigh
Intermittent rivers are among the most prevalent type of flowing waterway in the world, but they don’t always flow! In fact, they periodically stop flowing and dry up, shifting repeatedly through aquatic and terrestrial states.
This raises several questions and poses major challenges to scientists, water managers and policy-makers.
How do biotic communities persist in such dynamic environments? Should we assess their ecological condition when they are flowing or dry or both? How do we define and protect them legally? Are the ecological models, management practices and policies developed for rivers that always flow (‘perennial rivers’) applicable to intermittent ones?
In other words, how much do we actually know and understand about these systems given the bulk of research has been done on perennial rivers and we’re only just starting to catch up?
To tackle these questions and provide a path forward, Thibault Datry (Irstea, France), Ken Fritz (US EPA) and I joined forces with the Freshwater Biology team in late 2013 to guest edit a Special Issue dedicated to intermittent river research. Over the next two years we compiled works from leaders at the cutting edge of this dynamic field of freshwater science. Our hard work paid off and I’m pleased to announce that…
The complete Issue is out now! Thirteen outstanding new papers showcase the latest developments, spanning observational case studies from across the globe, to field and laboratory experiments and reviews.
Ultimately the Issue acts as a guide for our future research and management agenda, a vital need in this era of increasing flow intermittence as droughts escalate in both frequency and intensity and we continue to extract water from rivers for our own use.
After years of near-obscurity, the ecological study of intermittent rivers is today not a ‘dry’ topic but one that is fresh, multifaceted, and trending upward!
And best of all, the Issue’s content will be completely FREE to access and download from now until 31st August 2016! So get reading and enjoy!
2 thoughts on “Why are intermittent rivers so challenging for science, management and policy and what can we do about it?”
Fascinating article! My river always flows constantly, however I have heard of some nearby which do not. An important issue I dare say.
– Augustus The Fish.
Thanks Augustus The Fish! I hope you enjoy reading more about intermittent rivers in our special issue. Fish and how they live and move around in these rivers are featured in several papers. – Cath