Friday 05 October 2018, ENS Lyon
River basin management has mostly concerned management of water resources, with relatively little attention paid to the sediment continuity essential to maintain downstream channel functions and coastal features. The sediment loads of most major rivers have decreased in recent decades as a result of extensive trapping of sediment by dams, increasingly manifest in accelerated coastal erosion and loss of delta lands.
This conference examined three large rivers in southern Europe: the Rhône, Ebro, and Po. All have headwaters in high mountain ranges and traverse Mediterranean-climate dominated basins. All three have experienced afforestation of their mountainous headwaters since the 19th century, which has reduced erosion rates and sediment supply to the river system. All three have been extensively modified and impounded for irrigation water supply, hydroelectric production, flood control, and navigation, mined for production of construction aggregate, and otherwise altered for human uses, and all three evince erosion and subsidence of sediment-deprived deltas.
For each river, speakers reported on sediment discontinuity and sediment management from both geomorphic and environmental history perspectives (see programme below). One intervention, a social science perspective on sediment in the Rhône, was in the form of a half-hour video, which is available at the link above. In discussion, speakers and participants from the audience drew comparisons among the three river basins, noting similarities and differences. There was broad agreement among participants that the topic as framed by the conference merits further exploration.
The conference was hosted by the Collegium – Lyon Institute of Advanced Studies and the CNRS Laboratory UMR 5600 Environnement Ville Société, and co-sponsored by the Agence Francaise de la Biodiversité, Eléctricité de France, and Companie Nationale du Rhône, in collaboration GRAIE and the Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse. The conference was coordinated with a broader research effort initiated by Professor G Mathias Kondolf (UC Berkeley) and Asst Professor Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po), The Social Life of the Sediment Balance: A Social and Geomorphic Approach to the Transformation of River Systems and Deltas, supported by the France-Berkeley Fund and a UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix-Sciences Po collaboration grant.
This recently published study by Pedro J. Pinto, Matt Kondolf, and Raymond Wong (Environmental Science and Policy 90: 28-37) explores examples where actual implementation of SLR adaptation has led, or may lead to, the need to revise standards and practices or require uneasy choices between conflicting public interests. While there is broad agreement in principle in the San Francisco Bay region on the need to adapt to sea-level rise through innovative approaches, actual implementation has proven difficult because of institutional complexity and communication challenges among stakeholders, including conflicting agency mandates and priorities. Removing institutional barriers to adaptation will almost certainly require some agencies to adapt their policies, but path dependence is an obstacle. The article is available for free download until 18 November here.
A related paper explores why the SF Bay is so highly vulnerable to sea-level rise by comparison to the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal, which is physiographically similar but was subject to a very different development history. A key difference was the role of the US Swamp Act of 1850, which turned tidal lands over from the federal government to states so the latter could encourage drainage and development, leading ultimately to a vast area of urban settlement subject to inundation in coming decades. By contrast, in Portugal such tidal lands remained in the control of the crown, and were managed mostly for low-intensity agriculture, so today these lands are available to accommodate the landward migration of tidal wetlands with sea level rise, without conflicting with most urban land uses. The paper,
“Evolution of two urbanized estuaries: environmental change, legal framework, and implications for sea-level rise vulnerability” (Water 8:535) is available online (open access) at http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/8/11/535/pdf
Tuesday 11 September 2018, 3:30-5pm, Rm 223 Moses Hall, UC Berkeley
The term ‘Anthropocene’ is proposed for our current epoch, in which the role of human activity is beginning to exceed that of natural forces in shaping the earth’s surface. Rivers are now adjusting their morphology from the cumulative impact of many drivers for change operating at multiple spatial and temporal scales: changing land uses, instream aggregate mining, channelization, bank protection and dam construction, alongside changing flood and flow regimes. In response, river channels have narrowed, incised into their beds, reduced their lateral activity, and frequently changed from multi-thread to single-thread channel patterns. Integrative analyses of these multiple causes and effects were impractical until recent improvements in digital technologies and data availability. Synthesis of prior cumulative impact studies and a GIS-based analysis of newly available digital data demonstrate that river systems (in both the Old World and New) became significantly simplified, more static, and more homogenous over the 20th century, with important implications for river ecosystems and the benefits provided to human populations.
Peter Downs is an Associate Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth, UK. Previously at the University of Nottingham, Peter also spent ten years in interdisciplinary professional practice in the Bay Area which continues to guide his research interests in fluvial geomorphology, river restoration, and science and policy in river basin management. Recent projects have involved the development of a process-based sediment budget, investigating the coarse sediment dynamics in upland channels, and passive monitoring of coarse sediment fluxes using seismic impact plates. In each case, research is stimulated by a distinct practical challenge. The topic of this seminar stems from a EURIAS Senior Fellowship (2016-17), spent at the Collegium de Lyon Institute for Advanced Studies, initiating research into the cumulative impact of human activities and natural factors in determining the evolution of river channels during the late Anthropocene.
This seminar is presented as part of the interdisciplinary faculty seminar series Water Management: Past and Future Adaptation of the UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018, 315A Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley, 1:10PM – 2:00PM
Social connectivity of urban rivers is the communication and movement of people, goods, ideas, and culture along and across rivers, recognizing longitudinal, lateral, and vertical connectivity, social interactions that are especially intense and pervasive in urban reaches of rivers. Urban riverfront projects have become ubiquitous in the developed, and increasingly in the developing worlds, but these projects raise questions about what constitutes ‘restoration’ in the urban context, and to what degree natural processes and ecological values can be restored in an urban context.
Mathias Kondolf is a fluvial geomorphologist, Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of California Berkeley, and fellow at the Collegium, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Lyon, France. He teaches courses in hydrology, river restoration, and environmental science. He researches human-river interactions, including managing flood-prone lands, urban rivers, sediment in rivers and reservoirs, and river restoration and advises governments and non-governmental organizations on sustainable management of rivers.
Friday 05 October 2018 (0900 – 1800), Amphithéâtre René Descartes, ENS de Lyon, France
A 1-day conference at the Ecole Normal Superior of Lyon, France, will examine human-induced disturbance of sediment continuity at the river-basin scale and its potential management/restoration, from both a physical science and environmental history perspective. The conference focuses on three Mediterranean river basins, the Rhone, Ebro, and Po, drawing lessons from these relatively simple cases. Subsequent efforts will address more complex river basins involving multiple, often adversarial, sovereign states. (In English and French, with simultaneous translation.)
Rivers carry not only water, but sediment. Recent interest in river basin management has mostly concerned management of water resources, with relatively little attention paid to the sediment continuity essential to maintain downstream channel functions/form and coastal features. Despite widespread increases in land disturbance and consequent increased sediment yields from upland areas in many areas, especially in the developing world, the sediment loads of most major rivers have decreased in recent decades – as a result of extensive trapping of sediment by dams, increasingly manifest in accelerated coastal erosion and loss of delta lands.
In this conference, we examine three large rivers in southern Europe: the Rhône, Ebro, and Po. All three have experienced afforestation of their mountainous headwaters since the 19th century, which has reduced erosion rates and sediment supply to the river system. All three have been extensively modified and impounded for irrigation water supply, hydroelectric production, flood control, and navigation, mined for production of construction aggregate, and otherwise altered for human uses, and all three evince problems of erosion and subsidence of sediment-deprived deltas. All three have basins that are all or dominantly in one state (or two), which simplifies somewhat the challenge of basin-scale management. All three have had some basin-scale planning, the Ebro perhaps most notably with establishment of its Hydrographic Confederation in the 1920s, some years before the better-known Tennessee Valley Authority in the US. All three are subject to EU regulations, notably the Water Framework Directive.
For each river, we will summarize sediment continuity in the context of physical and ecological processes at the basin scale, and the environmental history and institutional setting. We seek to understand better, at the basin scale, how and why sediment continuity has changed over the past two centuries, whether and how these changes were understood and managed, and whether there has been recognition (and management) at this scale.
From our review of the literature on river-basin scale planning and management, there has been little basin-scale understanding and management of sediment issues reported, even where problems have been manifest, such as shrinking deltas. In part, this is probably attributable to the lack of overall river basin authorities, or the fact that these authorities, where they exist, are unlikely to recognize sediment management as a pressing issue. And many rivers drain territory in multiple states, complicating the problems, especially where there is tension between the states.
This conference will feature presentations on the three river basins from both physical geography and environmental history/social sciences perspectives, and discussants setting these basins in a larger framework. (in English and French with simultaneous translation)
Hosted by the Collegium – Lyon Institute of Advanced Studies and the CNRS Laboratory UMR 5600 Environnement Ville Société, the conference is co-sponsored by the Agence Francaise de la Biodiversité, Eléctricité de France, and Companie Nationale du Rhône, in collaboration GRAIE and the Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse. This conference is coordinated with a broader research effort initiated by Professor G Mathias Kondolf (UC Berkeley) and Asst Professor Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po), The Social Life of the Sediment Balance: A Social and Geomorphic Approach to the Transformation of River Systems and Deltas, supported by the France-Berkeley Fund and a UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix-Sciences Po collaboration grant.
Kondolf, G.M. and Piégay, H. 2011. Geomorphology and society. Chapter 6 in Handbook of Geomorphology, K. Gregory, ed., SAGE Publications, London, pp.105-117.
Vendredi 5 octobre 2018 (05/10/2018), Amphithéâtre René Descartes, ENS de Lyon
Une colloque à l’École Normale Supérieure de Lyon examinera la perturbation anthropique de la continuité des sédiments à l’échelle du bassin fluvial et son potentiel de gestion et restauration, d’une perspective des sciences physiques et humaines. La conférence se concentre sur trois bassins fluviaux méditerranéens, le Rhône, l’Ebre et le Pô, en tirant des leçons de ces cas relativement simples. Les efforts ultérieurs porteront sur des bassins fluviaux plus complexes impliquant plusieurs États souverains. (En anglais et en français, avec traduction simultanée.)
Les rivières ne charrient pas que de l’eau, mais aussi des sédiments. L’attention récente autour de la gestion de bassins versants a été plutôt portée sur la gestion des ressources hydrauliques et relativement peu à la continuité sédimentaire, essentielle au maintien des formes et fonctions des chenaux à l’aval ainsi qu’aux formes du littoral. Malgré l’intensification de l’utilisation du sol et en conséquence de l’augmentation de l’érosion du sol dans les montagnes de nombreuses régions, en particulier dans les pays en développement, les charges sédimentaires dans la plupart des rivières ont décru ces dernières décennies – résultat d’un piégeage important des sédiments par les barrages qui se manifeste davantage par l’accélération de l’érosion du littoral et la réduction de la surface des deltas.
Dans cette conférence nous examinons trois grandes rivières du sud de l’Europe : le Rhône, l’Ebro et le Po. Tous trois ont connu le reboisement de leurs sources montagneuses depuis le 19ème siècle, ce qui a réduit les taux d’érosion et l’apport de sédiments dans le réseau hydrographique. Toutes trois ont été largement modifiées et aménagées pour l’irrigation, la production hydroélectrique, le contrôle des inondations et la navigation, et ont été minées pour obtenir des graviers pour la construction, et plus largement modifiées pour des usages humains. Toutes trois ont des bassins versants principalement situés dans un Etat (ou deux), ce qui simplifie d’une certaine façon le défi de la gestion à l’échelle de leurs bassins versants. Ces derniers ont trois fait l’objet d’une planification à l’échelle du bassin mais l’Ebro peut-être plus que les autres avec l’établissement de sa confédération hydrographique dans les années vingt, quelques années avant le plus connu Tenessee Valley Authority aux Etats-Unis. Tous trois sont sujets aux régulations européennes, particulièrement la directive-cadre sur l’eau.
Pour chacune de ces rivières nous établissons l’état de la continuité sédimentaire dans le contexte de processus physiques et écologiques à l’échelle du bassin, l’histoire environnementale et le cadre institutionnel. Nous cherchons à comprendre mieux, à l’échelle d’un bassin, comment et pourquoi la continuité sédimentaire a changé au cours des deux derniers siècles, si et comment ces changements ont été compris et gérés, et si il y a eu une réflexion (et une gestion) au l’échelle du bassin.
A partir de notre lecture de la littérature sur les plans de gestions et les mesures mises en place à l’échelle d’une rivière ou d’un bassin, nous avons trouvé peu de problématiques liées à la compréhension et la gestion à ces échelles, même quand des problèmes, tels que le rétrécissement des deltas, ont été manifestes. Ceci est probablement attribuable en partie au manque d’autorités compétentes à l’échelle d’un bassin entier, ou au fait que ces autorités, quand elles existent, considérent peu la gestion des sédiments comme une problématique urgente. Plusieurs rivières drainent des terrains dans plusieurs Etats, compliquant le problème, particulièrement lorsqu’il y a des tensions entre les Etats.
Cette conférence mettra en avant sur les trois bassins versants desapproches à la fois de géographie physique et des sciences sociales et historiques, et les participants placeront ces bassins dans des cadres plus larges. Elle se tiendra en anglais et en français avec traduction simultanée.
Accueillie par le Collegium – Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Lyon, et le laboratoire Environnement Ville Société UMR 5600 du CNRS, la conférence est co-financée par l’Agence Française de la Biodiversité, Electricité de France et la Compagnie Nationale du Rhône, en collaboration avec GRAIE et l’Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse. Cette conférence est coordonnée avec un effort de recherche plus large initié par le Professeur G Mathias Kondolf (UC Berkeley) et le Professeur Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po), La vie sociale du bilan sédimentaire : une approche sociale et géomorphique de la transformation des systèmes fluviaux et deltas, soutenu par le Fonds France-Berkeley et une bourse de collaboration Social Science Matrix-Sciences Po de l’UC Berkeley.
Kondolf, G.M. and Piégay, H. 2011. Geomorphology and society. Chapter 6 in Handbook of Geomorphology, K. Gregory, ed., SAGE Publications, London, pp.105-117.
The operation of major federal flood control facilities in the Mississippi River system is compromised by local land-use decisions, which have allowed extensive development within designated flood bypasses, and by local interests who oppose inundation of their lands within these bypasses when needed to manage floods.
See our paper: ‘National-local land-use conflicts in floodways of the Mississippi River system’ by GM Kondolf and P Lopez-Llompart
It’s well known that dams trap sediment, but the potential to maintain reservoir capacity long-term by managing sediment in reservoirs is not widely appreciated. What can we learn from looking at dams built hundreds and thousands of years ago?
See our open-access publication in Water, 'Sustainably managing reservoir storage: ancient roots of a modern challenge' by GM Kondolf and A Farahani.
A new collaborative project will explore the social and natural processes that lead to the modification of sediment balance in rivers. Interdisciplinary scholarship on river systems and society is usually concerned with water flows, but rarely with sediment balance. Sediments, however, are essential components of river systems. Hydroelectric dams, canals, navigation, sand and gravel mining, and other human uses alter sediment fluxes, often with detrimental consequences on the river morphology and ecology as well as on coastal land.
The project will bring together two scholars with different perspectives on this topic: Giacomo Parrinello, Assistant Professor of Environmental History at the Centre for History at Sciences Po (CHSP), brings a social science and history background, while G. Mathias Kondolf, Professor of Environmental Planning and Geography in UC Berkeley’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, is an expert in the geomorphology of river systems. Parrinello and Kondolf received one of four inaugural grants from the UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix and Sciences Po to develop their project. See Matrix webpage for more details.