[MCN] A city's growth policy has impact on streams, rivers, extinctions

Lance Olsen lance at wildrockies.org
Tue Aug 22 10:18:17 EDT 2017

PNAS 2017 ; published ahead of print August 21, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1706201114
Physical Sciences - Sustainability Science:

US cities can manage national hydrology and biodiversity using local infrastructure policy
Ryan A. McManamay, Sujithkumar Surendran Nair, Christopher R. DeRolph, Benjamin L. Ruddell, April M. Morton, Robert N. Stewart, Matthew J. Troia, Liem Tran, Hyun Kim, and Budhendra L. Bhaduri


We introduce a unique and detailed data-driven approach that links cities’ hard infrastructures to their distal ecological impacts on streams. Although US cities concentrate most of the nation’s population, wealth, and consumption in roughly 5% of the land area, we find that city infrastructures influence habitats for over 60% of North America’s fish, mussel, and crayfish species and have contributed to local and complete extinctions in 260 species. We also demonstrate that city impacts are not proportionate to city size but reflect infrastructure decisions; thus, as US urbanization trends continue, local government and utility companies have opportunities to improve regional aquatic ecosystem conditions outside city boundaries through their hard infrastructure policies.

Abstract [Open access]
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/08/15/1706201114.abstract <http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/08/15/1706201114.abstract>
Cities are concentrations of sociopolitical power and prime architects of land transformation, while also serving as consumption hubs of “hard” water and energy infrastructures. These infrastructures extend well outside metropolitan boundaries and impact distal river ecosystems. We used a comprehensive model to quantify the roles of anthropogenic stressors on hydrologic alteration and biodiversity in US streams and isolate the impacts stemming from hard infrastructure developments in cities. Across the contiguous United States, cities’ hard infrastructures have significantly altered at least 7% of streams, which influence habitats for over 60% of North America’s fish, mussel, and crayfish species. Additionally, city infrastructures have contributed to local extinctions in 260 species and currently influence 970 indigenous species, 27% of which are in jeopardy. We find that ecosystem impacts do not scale with city size but are instead proportionate to infrastructure decisions. For example, Atlanta’s impacts by hard infrastructures extend across four major river basins, 12,500 stream km, and contribute to 100 local extinctions of aquatic species. In contrast, Las Vegas, a similar size city, impacts <1,000 stream km, leading to only seven local extinctions. So, cities have local policy choices that can reduce future impacts to regional aquatic ecosystems as they grow. By coordinating policy and communication between hard infrastructure sectors, local city governments and utilities can directly improve environmental quality in a significant fraction of the nation’s streams reaching far beyond their city boundaries.

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