Major Emergent Patterns in the Matrix

The first emergent point is that the manifold of human interactions with freshwater habitats can have positive and negative effects. Second, clines in extent and severity of these impacts span across the table, from incidental recreative visits to a lake in sparsely inhabited boreal zones, via subsistence fisheries and littoral reed harvesting to depletive fisheries and wholesale reclamation. Thus, a simple question on the effect of recreation and navigation in inland waters will require further specification. The presented matrix is only a broad-brushed effort to do so.

The prime service of inland waters to human society worldwide is the provision of clean fresh water. This too has been recognized early in human history, as witnessed by the impressive waterworks still remaining from ancient cultures. High density lakeside development and intensive navigation are both a consequence of increased population density, economic development and affluence. Both may severely affect this ecosystem service in the competitive struggle for water as a resource and a geographic feature. A range of other services (i.e., flood control and storm buffering, water supply, water quality improvement, habitat and nursery for commercial interesting species, recreational hunting and fishing, raw materials, amenity and biodiversity) has been identified for wetlands and inland waters alike. The overall economic value connected to these services is still the subject of methodological and conceptual study and debate. Generally, these values were found to be a positive function of national GDP and population density, and covary negatively with total wetland area. Hence in more affluent societies, these services are valued higher, although the remaining area of unaffected habitat is declining and remaining fragments have received a protection status.

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Table 1 Breakdown of the effects of human use in four different categories of inland water bodies

Type of human use

Larger lakes




Explanatory remarks

and lake





and ponds



1. Recreative trekking, canoeing





Low intensity recreation is generally not considered to have negative effects (1)

and swimming

2. Recreative hunting and





Recreative fishing may alter the composition of fish stocks and can be accompanied by


artificial stocking with target species

3. Recreative sailing and





Littoral fringes, reed beds and submerged vegetation may be affected by intense boat traffic



4. Commercial and subsistence





Commercial fisheries as well as trapping and hunting have greatly altered densities of target

vertebrate species (6, 7)

fisheries, trapping, and hunting

5. Planned or unplanned food-web manipulation; introduction of new species, biological invasions

6. Exploitation of other natural resources

7. Commercial shipping

8. Shoreline development with cottages, mooring piers, and boat houses

9. Permanent settlement: trading posts, villages, and towns

10. Irrigation and drainage, flow diversion, flow regulation, damming for hydropower or navigation

vertebrate species (6, 7)

-/0 -/0 -/0/+ Fish stock manipulation may be considered positive and negative. Released large herbivores

(e.g., muskrat) may affect wetland vegetation. Altered balances of planktivorous and piscivorous fish will affect zoo- and phytoplankton. Classical examples: the nile perch in Lake Victoria for introduction of nonnative fish and filtering zebra mussels into the North American Great Lakes as unplanned biological invasion. (6, 8-10) -/0/+ -/0/+ 0/+ Managed exploitation may have beneficial effects on biodiversity of semi-natural wetlands, such as reed-cutting to maintain reed bed flora and fauna. Exploitation of sand and gravel in unregulated river beds is an alteration of habitat and may affect spawning grounds of fish. Regular dredging and clearing of ditches maintains the aquatic habitat (11)

- - -/0 Enhanced shipping intensity may increase biological invasions; the North American Great

Lakes and the Danube-Rhine canal are examples. Artificial waterways may serve in connecting previously isolated lake systems. Otherwise see 3 above (12-14)

- -/0 0/+ With growing affluence, recreative settlements develop along lake shores. These generally affect littoral wetland vegetation first, but all littoral habitats follow suit and fish communities change (15, 16)

- - -/0/+ The consequence of economic development of society along rivers and other navigation networks. Effects generally aggravate those mentioned under 8. Deposition of human solid waste and disposal of domestic and industrial sewage are a consequence of the development of human settlements. Since these water bodies are created by man's activities, urban settlement is a primary cause of their existence, and hence should be judged positively when judged in isolation

- - + Upstream irrigation schemes may cause massive degradation in downstream lakes, wetlands and rivers. Classical examples are the drying-up of the Aral Sea and the reduction of freshwater flows and sediments to coastal wetlands and mangroves (14, 17-21). Flood regulation along river corridors will affect habitat prevalence and cause reduced biodiversity (22-24). Otherwise, like the previous entry, human activity is the root cause of the mere existence of these water bodies, and hence positive a>

11. Reclamation

Reclamation of wetlands generally involves the creation of artificial waterways such as drainage ditches as new aquatic habitat, but overall the balance is negative (20, 21, 25)

Key references are given in parentheses. Effects are judged negative, neutral, or positive (—, 0, +). Often, two or even three options are possible; the most probable is given in bold. The perspective is the provision of services to human society, including their mere existence.


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