Dr Rebecca Tharme
Riverfutures Limited - UK
In residence at
CItés, TERritoires, Environnement et Sociétés (CITERES) / CNRS, University of Tours - FR
Prof. Karl Matthias Wantzen
Biological and cultural diversity, and flow regimes – a unifying approach for managing riverscapes
People are at the centre of riverscapes, and integral to the conservation and management of their natural and cultural heritage. The world’s large rivers and their floodplains continue to be vital routes for the evolution of human civilizations and of the structurally and functionally interconnected ecosystems that support biodiversity and societal wellbeing.
Considering the parallel global crises of biodiversity and cultural diversity, our project aims to highlight and explore the interlinkages between these two facets in large rivers. The central premise is that along with declining biodiversity, the cultural diversity of large rivers (that part of culture derived from human-river relationships) will equally be impaired with fragmentation and flow regulation impacts of water infrastructure development. We investigate the ways in which biological and cultural diversity are coupled, and the degree to which their losses are at risk of co-occurrence with flow change. We strengthen empirical evidence by comparing different river basin cases across geographies. A situation assessment, using available data and expert consultations, will help us prioritise rivers of exceptional cultural and biological diversity. We also attempt to harmonise the concept of river culture with the environmental flows concept and ecological concept of a free-flowing river, to produce a global register of heritage rivers.
We anticipate that this pioneering, transdisciplinary study will help unify concepts and generate new knowledge on river culture and its connections with biological diversity and flow regime. We also hope to encourage growth in the researcher and practitioner network active in the field. We posit that transdisciplinary, joined-up conservation and management of large rivers, including through environmental flows, has greater potential to synergistically address adverse flow alteration impacts on biological and cultural diversity than their independent treatment.