Integrated River Basin Management: Key to a Balanced Conservation and Development Strategy
Large-scale infrastructure development, especially highways and roads and associated agricultural frontiers, are rapidly moving down the Andean river valleys, the very headwaters of the Amazon Basin. The western Amazon is also rich in hydrocarbons and large areas are already under exploitation or have been slated for new wells and pipelines.
Wetlands and the fisheries associated with them will increasingly be impacted by changes in the hydrological cycle caused by dam projects, by upland and floodplain deforestation associated with land conversion to farming and ranching, and all possibly exacerbated by climate change. Together, these threats could jeopardize the diversity and productivity of wetlands and the livelihoods of the rural and urban people who depend on them.
The vast size of the Amazon Basin, the interlocking relationships among uplands and wetlands, and the flow of water through wetlands from the Andes to the Atlantic strongly suggest that, to be effective, conservation actions must be informed by scientific analysis and synthesis of information at large enough scales as to be capable of capturing these ecological complexities. One of the principal telltales of the complex processes involved and their far-flung scale is fish migrations, where hydrological cycles, water quality and quantity and regional weather patterns influence the reproductive success of these valuable species.
And the rapid expansion of energy infrastructure and urbanization in the Amazon, coupled with a possible greater frequency of extreme hydrological events, means that integrated river basin management has become critical to inform a balanced conservation and development strategy.
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