The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Socio-economic, commercial and political factors in river recovery and restoration

Socio-economic, commercial and political factors in river recovery and restoration
Socio-economic, commercial and political factors in river recovery and restoration
In industrialised countries over the last sixty years a combination of new laws, technological advances, scientific developments, commercial and economical changes, and public and political opinion has resulted in the chemical and ecological recovery of many rivers that have been polluted over centuries. Improvements to water quality have been directly and positively linked – through both experimentation and the long-term monitoring of chemical and ecological conditions – to ecological enhancement, usually measured in terms of taxon richness or community diversity and expressed as readily interpretable indices.

Ecological enhancement has often been used as the major reasoning behind efforts to restore rivers to their natural hydro-geomorphic (geographical, geological and hydrological) condition, based on the hypothesis that increasing hydro-geomorphic diversity in river catchments and floodplains will in turn increase the natural diversity of living organisms. However, direct studies and metadata analyses demonstrate that any relationship between physical restoration and ecological indicators is at best uncertain and at worst neither quantified nor readily quantifiable, and even the physical results of such restoration projects have not always met expectations, with many schemes failing for various reasons.

In this article we propose that it is not the potential improvements to the ecology or the physical characteristics of the rivers (hydromorphology) that has been of primary importance when deciding to carry out restoration projects; instead it is a drive by the global finance industry to deliver flood alleviation schemes and thus save huge compensation payments, and political expediency where public opinion has reacted strongly against flooding. Evidence includes the continued planning of such projects under the guise of ecological improvements, even in the light of the clear physical and ecological failures of many completed river restorations. Since the success or failure of such proposals is measured often by public attitudes and subjective opinions, ecological consequences are often not measured. However, advances in science and the involvement of ecologists with distinguished careers and high integrity may have provided scientific gravitas to facilitate acceptance of the plans.

We also explore some of the unintended commercial and social consequences of pollution controls in the UK during the 1960s, including accelerated industrial emigration, which in turn had significant and predictable repercussions in developing countries such as China and India. The effects these consequences will have on future restorations and pollution controls are considered, as well as potential international social, political, commercial and economic requirements particularly in newer and future industrialised countries.
121-137
Langford, Terry E.L.
59da19df-8391-4774-9cb9-7223b22492a6
Shaw, P.J.
935dfebf-9fb6-483c-86da-a21dba8c1989
Langford, Terry E.L.
59da19df-8391-4774-9cb9-7223b22492a6
Shaw, P.J.
935dfebf-9fb6-483c-86da-a21dba8c1989

Langford, Terry E.L. and Shaw, P.J. (2014) Socio-economic, commercial and political factors in river recovery and restoration. Freshwater Reviews, 7 (2), 121-137. (doi:10.1608/FRJ-7.2.787).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In industrialised countries over the last sixty years a combination of new laws, technological advances, scientific developments, commercial and economical changes, and public and political opinion has resulted in the chemical and ecological recovery of many rivers that have been polluted over centuries. Improvements to water quality have been directly and positively linked – through both experimentation and the long-term monitoring of chemical and ecological conditions – to ecological enhancement, usually measured in terms of taxon richness or community diversity and expressed as readily interpretable indices.

Ecological enhancement has often been used as the major reasoning behind efforts to restore rivers to their natural hydro-geomorphic (geographical, geological and hydrological) condition, based on the hypothesis that increasing hydro-geomorphic diversity in river catchments and floodplains will in turn increase the natural diversity of living organisms. However, direct studies and metadata analyses demonstrate that any relationship between physical restoration and ecological indicators is at best uncertain and at worst neither quantified nor readily quantifiable, and even the physical results of such restoration projects have not always met expectations, with many schemes failing for various reasons.

In this article we propose that it is not the potential improvements to the ecology or the physical characteristics of the rivers (hydromorphology) that has been of primary importance when deciding to carry out restoration projects; instead it is a drive by the global finance industry to deliver flood alleviation schemes and thus save huge compensation payments, and political expediency where public opinion has reacted strongly against flooding. Evidence includes the continued planning of such projects under the guise of ecological improvements, even in the light of the clear physical and ecological failures of many completed river restorations. Since the success or failure of such proposals is measured often by public attitudes and subjective opinions, ecological consequences are often not measured. However, advances in science and the involvement of ecologists with distinguished careers and high integrity may have provided scientific gravitas to facilitate acceptance of the plans.

We also explore some of the unintended commercial and social consequences of pollution controls in the UK during the 1960s, including accelerated industrial emigration, which in turn had significant and predictable repercussions in developing countries such as China and India. The effects these consequences will have on future restorations and pollution controls are considered, as well as potential international social, political, commercial and economic requirements particularly in newer and future industrialised countries.

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: 2014
Organisations: Centre for Environmental Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 394145
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/394145
PURE UUID: 7926bd84-2348-4cd7-92ce-fd7d2de4bb00

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 12 May 2016 09:29
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:03

Export record

Altmetrics

Contributors

Author: Terry E.L. Langford
Author: P.J. Shaw

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×