Meiying Lin

How well do you know about river system in the Anthropocene?

Nowadays, each of the components of our earth system is influenced by human activities in some way. All kinds of agriculture, industrial production activities are directly reflected that human activities in driving the changes of the earth system. Earth has entered a new era of geologic epoch — the Anthropocene. But in the mean time, how well do you know about the Anthropocene?

Human activities are driven the change of the river system and influenced its sediment flux for over 3000 years. Deforestation, transportation, mining and agriculture makes a strong impact to geological climate. By sixteenth Century, the development of modern society began to transform the environment. The disturbance of soil was more frequent in that period. (Syvitski & Kettner 2011) Though a long period of human pressure impact on all aspects of terrestrial aquatic systems. Canada and Alaska, the Amazon, the Congo Basn and a few parts of the Siberian rivers is the only place that still retains original state in the earth nowadays. From a global point of view, there are a series of major changes in the terrestrial aquatic system after entering the Anthropocene. For instance fragmentation, sediment imbalance, neo–arheism, salinization, chemical contamination, acidification, eutrophication and microbial contamination. (Meybeck 2003) The impact of human activities in river system are extremely strong.

Human activities caused accelerated erosion of river sedimentation and morphology, though dam building, agriculture and other land mining activities. According to the record, we currently have over 45000 dam is more than 15m high. Large reservoirs have changed the time and intensity of water flow, not only dissolved substances, but also made the material particles, and changed the position and way of chemical reactions. At the same time, these dams are also separated by rivers, cracked landscapes and habitats of aquatic animals, creating new deposits and carbon pool. (National Research Council Processes 2010). On a global scale, the annual dam reduces a huge amount of sediment to the coast. Even though soil erosion and river transportation, the dam sediments are constantly increasing every year. (National Research Council Processes 2010).

If you still thought that the ‘Anthropocene’ is just a publicity of human wisdom and creativity, and still wasting a variety of resources of our only home, you are making a huge mistake! The earth is not only a belong to humanity, but also every living beings on the earth. The ‘anthropocene’ is NOT let human to become the haughty dominator of the earth. The ‘anthropocene’ is a manifesto to remind us the strong responsibility of becoming the caregivers of the earth. To take on this responsibility, we must change the traditional mode of economic growth and achieve a sustainable development. Our earth provides us enough resources to meet every living being’s need, but it can’t meet everyone’s greed. Think about our children and grandchildren 500 years later, when they will happy to live on our earth and they did not describe us as the barbarians who have destroyed their homes!


Syvitski,J.P.M., Kettner, A. 2011, ‘Sediment flux and the Anthropocene’, The Royal Society, 31 January, viewed 20 August 2015, <;.

Meybeck, M., 2003, ‘Biological Sciences’, Global analysis of river systems: From Earth system controls to Anthropocene syndromes, 29 December, 358(1 440): 1 935-1 955.

Dybesuis, M., Nilsson, C., 1994, ‘Science’, Fragmentation and flow regulation of river systems in the northern third of the world, 266: 753-762.

National Research Council Processes, 2010, ‘Land scapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface’, The National Academies Press, Washington, USA.



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