[MCN] Gravel-bed rivers' big role in glaciated valleys

Lance Olsen lance at wildrockies.org
Sat Jun 25 15:35:36 EDT 2016

Science Advances  24 Jun 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 6, e1600026
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600026

Gravel-bed rivers -- floodplains complexity -- 
connectivity -- biodiversity  -- hydrogeomorphic 
disturbance -- coupled natural and human systems 
--  ecosystem conservation

Abstract (Open access) (Bold added)

Gravel-bed river floodplains in mountain 
landscapes disproportionately concentrate diverse 
habitats, nutrient cycling, productivity of 
biota, and species interactions. Although stream 
ecologists know that river channel and floodplain 
habitats used by aquatic organisms are maintained 
by hydrologic regimes that mobilize gravel-bed 
sediments, terrestrial ecologists have largely 
been unaware of the importance of floodplain 
structures and processes to the life requirements 
of a wide variety of species. We provide insight 
into gravel-bed rivers as the ecological nexus of 
glaciated mountain landscapes. We show why 
gravel-bed river floodplains are the primary 
arena where interactions take place among 
aquatic, avian, and terrestrial species from 
microbes to grizzly bears and provide essential 
connectivity as corridors for movement for both 
aquatic and terrestrial species. Paradoxically, 
gravel-bed river floodplains are also 
disproportionately unprotected where human 
developments are concentrated. Structural 
modifications to floodplains such as roads, 
railways, and housing and hydrologic-altering 
hydroelectric or water storage dams have severe 
impacts to floodplain habitat diversity and 
productivity, restrict local and regional 
connectivity, and reduce the resilience of both 
aquatic and terrestrial species, including 
adaptation to climate change. To be effective, 
conservation efforts in glaciated mountain 
landscapes intended to benefit the widest variety 
of organisms need a paradigm shift that has 
gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains as the 
central focus and that prioritizes the 
maintenance or restoration of the intact 
structure and processes of these critically 
important systems throughout their length and 

		Copyright © 2016, The Authors


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were the only ones we had to pay, we might more 
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and much more grievous to some of us. We are 
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....  "      

"Here you are all got together at this sale of 
fineries and knick-knacks. You call them goods; 
but, if you do not take care, they will prove 
evils to some of you."

Benjamin Franklin, "The Way to Wealth" (1758).
[The classic Franklin summary of his advice from Poor Richard's Almanac.]



"A new area of study is the field that some of us 
are beginning to call social traps. The term 
refers to situations in society that contain 
traps formally like a fish trap, where men or 
whole societies get themselves started in some 
direction or some set of relationships that later 
prove to be unpleasant or lethal and that they 
see no easy way to back out of or to avoid."

John Platt. Social Traps. American Psychologist, August 1973


DOI 10.1007/s13280-013-0419-1

The Historical Dynamics of Social-Ecological Traps
Wiebren J. Boonstra, Florianne W. de Boer

Social-ecological traps _ Path dependency _ 
Agricultural involution _ Gilded trap

"the paper conceptualizes social-ecological traps 
as a process instead of a condition"

Environmental degradation is a typical unintended 
outcome of collective human behavior. Hardin's 
metaphor of the ''tragedy of the commons'' has 
become a conceived wisdom that captures the 
social dynamics leading to environmental 
degradation. Recently, ''traps'' has gained 
currency as an alternative concept to explain the 
rigidity of social and ecological processes that 
produce environmental degradation and livelihood 
impoverishment. The trap metaphor is, however, a 
great deal more complex compared to Hardin's 
insight. This paper takes stock of studies using 
the trap metaphor. It argues that the concept 
includes time and history in the analysis, but 
only as background conditions and not as a factor 
of causality. From a historical-sociological 
perspective this is remarkable since 
social-ecological traps are clearly 
path-dependent processes, which are causally 
produced through a conjunction of events. To 
prove this point the paper conceptualizes 
social-ecological traps as a process instead of a 
condition, and systematically compares history 
and timing in one classic and three recent 
studies of social- ecological traps. Based on 
this comparison it concludes that conjunction of 
social and environmental events contributes 
profoundly to the production of trap processes. 
The paper further discusses the implications of 
this conclusion for policy intervention and 
outlines how future research might generalize 
insights from historical-sociological studies of 


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