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Environmental Management

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 455–467 | Cite as

Legitimizing Fluvial Ecosystems as Users of Water: An Overview

  • ROBERT J. NAIMAN
  • STUART E. BUNN
  • CHRISTER NILSSON
  • GEOFF E. PETTS
  • GILLES PINAY
  • LISA C. THOMPSON

Abstract

We suggest that fluvial ecosystems are legitimate users of water and that there are basic ecological principles guiding the maintenance of long-term ecological vitality. This article articulates some fundamental relationships between physical and ecological processes, presents basic principles for maintaining the vitality of fluvial ecosystems, identifies several major scientific challenges and opportunities for effective implementation of the basic ecological principles, and acts as an introduction to three specific articles to follow on biodiversity, biogeochemistry, and riparian communities. All the objectives, by necessity, link climate, land, and fresh water. The basic principles proposed are: (1) the natural flow regime shapes the evolution of aquatic biota and ecological processes, (2) every river has a characteristic flow regime and an associated biotic community, and (3) aquatic ecosystems are topographically unique in occupying the lowest position in the landscape, thereby integrating catchment-scale processes. Scientific challenges for the immediate future relate to quantifying cumulative effects, linking multidisciplinary knowledge and models, and formulating effective monitoring and assessment procedures. Additionally, forecasting the ecological consequences of changing water regimes is a fundamental challenge for science, especially as environmental issues related to fresh waters escalate in the next two to three decades.

KEY WORDS: Fluvial ecosystems; Flow regime; Ecological principles; Watershed management; Rivers; Research challenges 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • ROBERT J. NAIMAN
    • 1
  • STUART E. BUNN
    • 2
  • CHRISTER NILSSON
    • 3
  • GEOFF E. PETTS
    • 4
  • GILLES PINAY
    • 5
  • LISA C. THOMPSON
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USAUS
  2. 2.Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia 4111AU
  3. 3.Landscape Ecology Group, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, SwedenSE
  4. 4.School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UKGB
  5. 5.UMR ECOBIO, University of Rennes I, Campus de Beaulieu, Avenue du général Leclerc, F-35042 Rennes cedex, FranceFR
  6. 6.National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93101-5504, USAUS

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