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A World of Rivers

Environmental Change on Ten of the World’s Great Rivers

A World of Rivers

Environmental Change on Ten of the World’s Great Rivers

Far from being the serene, natural streams of yore, modern rivers have been diverted, dammed, dumped in, and dried up, all in efforts to harness their power for human needs. But these rivers have also undergone environmental change. The old adage says you can’t step in the same river twice, and Ellen Wohl would agree—natural and synthetic change are so rapid on the world’s great waterways that rivers are transforming and disappearing right before our eyes.

            A World of Rivers explores the confluence of human and environmental change on ten of the great rivers of the world. Ranging from the Murray-Darling in Australia and the Yellow River in China to Central Europe’s Danube and the United States’ Mississippi, the book journeys down the most important rivers in all corners of the globe. Wohl shows us how pollution, such as in the Ganges and in the Ob of Siberia, has affected biodiversity in the water. But rivers are also resilient, and Wohl stresses the importance of conservation and restoration to help reverse the effects of human carelessness and hubris.

            What all these diverse rivers share is a critical role in shaping surrounding landscapes and biological communities, and Wohl’s book ultimately makes a strong case for the need to steward positive change in the world’s great rivers.

368 pages | 64 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Biological Sciences: Ecology, Natural History

Earth Sciences: Environment

Geography: Environmental Geography


“Excellent. . . . Wohl, a fluvial geoscientist, does a superb job of linking the flow of geomorphic structure of rivers with a more encompassing examination of their ecology, history, and culture. . . . Highly recommended.”

J. H. Thorp III | Choice

"Wohl is distinctly more objective and even hopeful than many of her environmentalist contemporaries would be in her approach to this wide-ranging subject. . . . Hers is a fascinating geosocial approach to environmental history. She is rational and reasonable, so the reforms she urges are far more likely to come about than they otherwise would. She certainly does not shy away from exposing the problems, but her approach is positive."

Workboat World

Table of Contents


1 A Round River 1

2 The Amazon: Rivers of Blushing Dolphins


3 The Ob: Killing Grandmother


4 The Nile: Lifeline in the Desert


5 The Danube: Remnants of Beauty


6 The Ganges: Eternally Pure?


7 The Mississippi: Once and Future River


8 The Murray-Darling: Stumbling in the Waltz


9 The Congo: River That Swallows All Rivers


10 The Chang Jiang: Bridling a Dragon


11 The Mackenzie: River on the Brink

12 An Ebbing Flow

Selected Bibliographic Sources


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