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Conservation of temporary waterways

Published On: 3/17/2014

SFS members pen Science policy forum article on conservation of temporary waterways

SFS members and colleagues recently published a Science policy forum article (March 7, 2014, vol. 343, pages 1080-1081) entitled "Why should we care about temporary waterways". The article was written in response to a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed ruling aimed at clarifying which bodies of water with intermittent flow are protected under law. The authors point out that the number of temporary waterways are underestimated in many regions and their number is expected to increase as climate changes. Temporary streams are rivers are valuable because they are 'critical conduits of water, energy, material, and organism even when water is not present' and they are 'being buried and degraded at alarming rates.' Legal protection of temporary streams and rivers varies worldwide. The highest level of protection exists in Australia. In contrast, the jurisdictional status of streams with intermittent flow is determined on a case-by-case basis in the U.S. The authors provide two criteria for legally defining temporary waterways as part of a river network: (1) intermittent flow exists and is connected to a river network, and (2) waterways provide habitat for obligate aquatic organisms or terrestrial organisms unique to dry river beds. The authors also call for improved mapping of temporary streams and rivers and refinement of biological indicators to assess and monitor these ecosystems.

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