Take a look at almost any major city in Canada and you’ll probably notice that’s it’s built on a river or a lake. Waterways were, and still are, important for transporting goods and providing a source of food. But how has our use of rivers impacted their development?
This is one of the many questions about ecosystem geography that Professor Marwan Hassan asks in his research. Professor Hassan studies the factors that influence how the landscape looks – why a river flows a certain way or why the mountains are still mountains.
When it comes to rivers, it’s all about the physics of sediment movement and the animals, like fish, that might affect it. But human intervention has shifted the natural ecology of rivers. Most of the rivers in Canada are fragmented – that is artificial structures may be blocking the passage of migratory fish and substantially changing the habitat distribution within the river network.
“There are certain parts of the Mississippi where we will lose all of the soil in the next 100 or 200 years,” says Hassan. Observations like these can help inform conservation and restoration efforts. Mississippi conservation efforts since the 1930’s clearly aren’t functioning the way we had hoped.
Professor Hassan’s work on understanding the shifting landscape can help restore rivers to a level that balances ecological function and aesthetics.