Friday, January 11, 2013

Salinisation of rivers: a global environmental problem

Universitat de Barcelona: The salinisation of rivers is a global problem that affects to countries all over the world and it causes a high environmental and economic cost, and poses a high risk to global health. Climate change and the increasing water consumption can worsen even more the future scene, according to an article published on the journal Environmental Pollution based on the research developed by an international team led by the experts of the Department of Ecology of the UB Narcís Prat and Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles. The article is also signed by Ben J. Kefford from the University of Technology of Sydney (Australia); Christophe Piscart from the University of Lyon (France); Ralf B. Schäfer from the University Koblenz-Landau (Germany); and Claus-Jürgen Schulz from the Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG, Germany).

River salinity can be natural, caused by the geology of the area or the climatology, or anthropogenic, in other words, caused by domestic and industrial waste discharges, mining activity, agricultural and farming residues, etc. In worldwide river ecosystems, excessive salt concentrations caused by human activity are a threat to the survival of organisms and communities, biodiversity, the ecosystem’s biological balance, and it produces severe economical and public health problems.

According to Miguel Cañello-Argüelles, the main author of the article, “this article aims at giving a integrating view and emphasize the seriousness of the ecological, economic and global health effects that secondary salinisation has”. The expert remarks that it is a global process: “It happens in many regions from all over the world, although there is a great ignorance about the problem”. The most extreme case of salinisation occurs in some Australian rivers. “However —Cañedo-Argüelles adds—, in this case local studies have been done in order to clearly diagnose the problem; therefore, all the agents who make use of the natural resources of some rivers (farmers, industrialists, etc.) have collaborated in the process of finding solutions”.

In Europe, the process of river salinisation by human action is getting worse as years goes by. “It is also a problem in Spain”, declares the professor Narcís Prat, director of the Research Group Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM) of the UB. “ In the Ebro plain, due to soil’s characteristic and the kind of agricultural activity performed, rivers are saltier than in Australia —he explains—, but here river conservation is not among the priorities of water resources management”, so these problems are not solved. According to Prat, the question is even worse in the region of Murcia: “It is a semi-arid area where irrigation is a common activity and rivers are saline as a result of the excessive exploitation of water resources”...

The Ebro River delta from the air, shot by Gons, Wikimedia Commons,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


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