The rise of riverine flow-ecology and environmental flow research


Rivers worldwide are under increasing threat from hydrologic alteration. Managing for environmental flows (E-flows) is one way of dealing with this, but research remains heavily focused on development of methods for setting flows. We examined trends in riverine flow-ecology research (the link between the flow regime and biota of a river) from 1995 to 2012 internationally by assessing publication rate of all countries combined and identifying trends in research specifically on E-flows. USA dominated the research output in flow-ecology research, but Australian researchers were the most active on E-flows. We show that E-flow research has exponentially expanded since the mid 1990s, both in number and as a percentage of general river research. E-flow research productivity also increased weakly with the number of dams and per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) of countries, highlighting that this research is performed mostly in developed countries. We expect this trend will continue and suggest that E-flow research needs to be incorporated into policy in low-GDP countries to ensure healthy viable river ecosystems.

Environmental Processes
Jonathan D. Tonkin
Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow