BUFFALO, NY— A new study identifies gaps in data on rivers around the world, highlighting potential priorities for future installation of monitoring tools.
Research focuses on flux gauges—instruments that record the volume of water flowing at a specific location in a river or stream.
The analysis focused on stream gauges included in two global datasets, including the large and widely used Global Streamflow Indices and Metadata Archive, a key source of information for hydrology research. To assess whether certain types of waterways were overrepresented in these global gauging networks, the scientists combined data on the placement of more than 32,000 gauges in the datasets with information on the characteristics of the rivers and their surrounding landscapes.
“We find that gauges are disproportionately located in large perennial rivers draining more human-occupied watersheds,” the authors write in their paper, published in Natural durability. “Gauges are sparsely distributed in protected areas and rivers characterized by unsustainable flow regimes, both of which are critical to freshwater conservation and water security concerns.”
“As we respond to climate change and work towards conservation, it is important to recognize that the information we have from flux gauges is not completely representative,” says Corey A. Krabbenhoft, PhD, lead author of the study. . She is an assistant research professor of biological sciences in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota.
The study was conducted by an interdisciplinary team led by Krabbenhoft and lead authors George H. Allen, PhD, at Texas A&M University, Peirong Lin, PhD, at Peking University, and Julian D. Olden, PhD , at the University of Washington.
The datasets used do not include all flow gauges worldwide: gauges in regions that do not share data publicly will be missing, as well as data from flows independently monitored by organizations that do not integrate the results in public databases. Still, the number of stream gauges covered by the study is large and comparable to the breadth of datasets typically used in global hydrological research analyses, Krabbenhoft notes. Identifying biases in the placement of these gauges is critical because the information from these data sets underpins important knowledge about the world’s freshwater resources.
“This type of data is the basis of many aquatic sciences. Data on where the water is, what it is doing and how it is flowing is very fundamental,” says Krabbenhoft.
She presents the case of non-perennial rivers as an example of why it is important to draw attention to gaps in stream gauging data.
“One disparity we see is in monitoring non-perennial rivers, which periodically dry up and stop flowing,” she says. “We need more data on these types of flows. There are many places in the world where we expect the number of rivers to periodically dry up in the future, and in some cases these rivers are part of larger river systems. that people rely on for their drinking water.
“If the number of non-perennial streams increases in the future, having a good understanding of how they work, when they stop flowing and for how long they stop flowing is essential information to be able to adjust the water management priorities and understand how environmental change is impacting aquatic ecosystems around the world.
The research was a product of the Dry Rivers Research Coordination Network, which was supported by funding from the US National Science Foundation to Daniel C. Allen, PhD, at Penn State.
The study included researchers from UB; the University of Minnesota; Texas A&M University; Peking University; the University of Washington; Idaho State University; Penn State; The University of Melbourne; Duke University; the US Environmental Protection Agency; Flinders University; the University of Kansas; the University of California, Santa Cruz; INRAE, National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment of France; Kansas State University; the University of Alabama; Virginia Tech; United States Geological Survey; Indiana University in Bloomington; the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, Ispra, Italy; and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
– This press release originally appeared on the University at Buffalo website