As part of the global free-flowing rivers project, researcher Günther Grill, of McGill University (Montreal, Canada) visited WWF-Brazil for a technical discussion of the project ‘Tracking the status of free-flowing rivers across the globe’. The meeting was attended by WWF-Brazil’s conservation directors and technical staff and those of the Living Amazon Initiative (LAI).
The project ‘Tracking the status of free-flowing rivers across the globe’ is a joint effort involving various researchers from academic institutions such as McGill University as well as WWF experts in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Brazil and the Living Amazon Initiative. The aim is to come to an agreement on concepts and methodologies for mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers, their status and the degree of connectivity necessary to guarantee the functioning of the hydrological systems of the river basins. The result will be a global map of free-flowing rivers. The project is expected to last for two years and will be working with three pilot river basins: Tapajós (Amazon, Brazil); Luanga (Zambezi, Zambia) and the Upper Ganges (India).
In Günther Grill’s view, this collaboration among the research institutions and non governmental organizations is highly important. He states that “From our perspective, we could potentially do research but I think without the input of NGOs [like WWF] actually going to field and communicating with stakeholders we cannot develop useful outcomes that can create some change in the field. On the other hand, the NGOs need our more elaborated models, computer tools and resources to communicate with other stakeholders”.
According to WWF-Brazil conservation expert Paula Valdujo, the project also provides an opportunity to improve the Hydrological Information System HIS-ARA that is used to analyse Amazonian rivers. The system integrates ecological and hydrological information to create a vision of the state of conservation of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems across the entire Amazon biome. “The approach developed by WWF has made it possible, for example, to evaluate the local and cumulative impacts of hydroelectric plans, including impacts on connectivity of the river system”, said.
Damian Fleming, the Living Amazon Initiative’s coordinator for its Infrastructure Strategy explains that this cooperation on the ‘Tracking the status of free-flowing rivers across the globe’ project is a really important step forward for WWF’s work and cites two workshops conducted by WWF in 2013 and 2014 at which experts discussed the connectivity of aquatic ecosystems.
Information on the connectivity of aquatic ecosystems in the Amazon basin can be found in the report State of the Amazon: Freshwater Connectivity and Ecosystem Health