Anthropocene

The planet is now host to over seven billion people. Each one of us lives in a catchment and therefore a number of key questions arise as to how we approach management of river systems with their uneven range of pressures experienced under often intensely crowded conditions. Relatively natural or pristine segments of small to large rivers are increasingly rare throughout much of the world and, as Thorp et al. (2006) attest, this makes it a ‘formidable task’ to study and manage such systems in an anthropogenically-dominated world. Yet, after more than a century of research on rivers and their physical and biotic make-up, we still lack robust baselines as to how these freshwater ecosystems function and this paucity of reference points hinders widespread understanding of what ecosystem services are delivered by rivers in both their natural and human-altered states. In the Anthropocene, More and more, it is seen as vital to gain this widespread understanding in forms that are accessible to scientists, planners, managers and the general public who live in these basins. In attempting this, scholars from a range of disciplines have traditionally framed problems of environmental change and degradation within disciplinary constructs; however an increasingly important question is to what extent trans-disciplinary perspectives on the recently-defined Anthropocene era can provide new ideas, new understanding and better approaches to river management.

Contact: Dr Andy Large, University of Newcastle, Uk; Email andy.large@newcastle.ac.uk