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SRI SAVITRIBAI PHULE POLYTECHNIC, PUNE

Study of simple
ecosystem
Rivers
Ishan Shikarkhane, Zainulabdeen Sayeed, Suyash Shinde

This report is about the river ecosystem and the biotic and abiotic factors of
river ecosystem, the factors affecting rivers and the causes of river pollution.
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or what controls the rate of decomposition of materials or the rate at which nutrients are recycled in the system. Ecology generally is defined as the interactions of organisms with one another and with the environment in which they occur. Studies of communities examine how populations of many species interact with one another. These functional aspects include such things as the amount of energy that is produced by photosynthesis. we try to focus on major functional aspects of the system. rather than worrying mainly about particular species. The boundaries are not fixed in any objective way. how energy or materials flow along the many steps in a food chain. components. Usually the boundaries of an ecosystem are chosen for practical reasons having to do with the goals of the particular study. a forest.INTRODUCTION An ecosystem consists of the biological community that occurs in some locale. reproduction. In ecosystem ecology we put all of this together and. Studies of individuals are concerned mostly about physiology. or biotic. insofar as we can.a pond. Energy transformations and biogeochemical cycling are the main processes that comprise the field of ecosystem ecology. and the physical and chemical factors that make up its non-living or abiotic environment. We can study ecology at the level of the individual. such as predators and their prey. and studies of populations usually focus on the habitat and resource needs of individual species. and what limits their abundance or causes extinction. population growth. as with the shoreline of a small pond. although sometimes they seem obvious. This means that. The study of ecosystems mainly consists of the study of certain processes that link the living. the population. or competitors that share common needs or resources. an estuary. the community. development or behaviour. There are many examples of ecosystems -. we try to understand how the system operates as a whole. their group behaviours. a grassland. and the ecosystem. or abiotic. components to the non-living. 2 .

Together. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. Much of this article applies to lotic ecosystems in general. a process that also captures carbon from the atmosphere. these two fields form the more general study area of freshwater or aquatic ecology. and includes biotic (living) interactions amongst plants. The following unifying characteristics make the ecology of running waters unique from that of other aquatic habitats. River ecosystems are prime examples of lotic ecosystems. which involve relatively still terrestrial waters such as lakes and ponds. water. By breaking down dead organic matter. It generally enters the system through photosynthesis. animals and micro-organisms. nitrogen and soil minerals are other essential abiotic components of an ecosystem. By feeding on plants and on one another. washed. The energy that flows through ecosystems is obtained primarily from the sun. decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes. RIVER ECOSYSTEM The ecosystem of a river is the river viewed as a system operating in its natural environment.Energy. as well as abiotic (nonliving) physical and chemical interactions. Lotic ecosystems can be contrasted with lentic ecosystems. including related lotic systems such as streams and springs. from the Latin lotus. 3 . Lotic refers to flowing water. Lotic waters range from springs only a few centimetres wide to major rivers kilometres in width.  There is a state of continuous physical change.  Flow is unidirectional. animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system.  There is a high degree of spatial and temporal heterogeneity at all scales (microhabitats).

ranging from torrential rapids to slow backwaters that almost seem like lentic systems. however. and the incline gradient. might be shaded by surrounding forests or by valley walls. and/or groundwater can affect flow rate. and the sun reaches the surface. Variability between lotic systems is quite high. and geographic position. Seasonal and diurnal factors might also play a role in light availability because the angle of incidence. 2. for example. Flow:.Water flow is the key factor in lotic systems influencing their ecology. because it provides the energy necessary to drive primary production via photosynthesis. 4 . obstructions. The amount of light that a system receives can be related to a combination of internal and external stream variables. and pools. including riffles. Light:. the amount of water input into the system from direct precipitation. and particles in the water increasingly attenuate light as depth increases. altitude. The area surrounding a small stream.  The biota is specialized to live with flow conditions. glides. creating a variety of habitats. the more light is reflected and the amount of solar radiation received declines logarithmically with depth. The mean flow rate vector is based on variability of friction with the bottom or sides of the channel. Larger river systems tend to be wide so the influence of external variables is minimized. snowmelt.Light is important to lotic systems. The speed of the water flow can also vary within a system and is subject to chaotic turbulence. Additional influences on light availability include cloud cover. In addition. sinuosity. The strength of water flow can vary between systems. Abiotic factors 1. the shallower the angle. Flowing waters can alter the shape of the streambed through erosion and deposition. and can also provide refuge for prey species in shadows it casts. the angle at which light strikes water can lead to light lost from reflection. These rivers also tend to be more turbulent. This turbulence results in divergences of flow from the mean down slope flow vector as typified by eddy currents. Known as Beer's Law.

Water chemistry between systems varies tremendously. so systems with a high abundance of aquatic algae and plants may also have high concentrations of oxygen during the day. The chemistry is foremost determined by inputs from the geology of its watershed. desert and temperate systems. or catchment area. which are often very close to ambient temperature. climate and elevation can also influence the temperature of lotic systems. dissolved salts. slower moving water systems. Temperature:. Chemistry:. It enters the water mostly via diffusion at the water-air interface. a strong difference between the bottom and surface temperatures may develop. Oxygen can be limiting if circulation between the surface and deeper layers is poor. Fast.Most lotic species are poikilotherms whose internal temperature varies with their environment. The amount of shading. Large differences in chemistry do not usually exist within small lotic systems due to a high rate of mixing. or if there is a large amount of organic decay occurring. In larger river systems. Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis. Oxygen is likely the most important chemical constituent of lotic systems. 4. Oxygen’s solubility in water decreases as water PH and temperature increases. but can also be influenced by precipitation and the addition of pollutants from human sources. 5 . thus temperature is a key abiotic factor for them. the concentrations of most nutrients. Shallow streams are typically well mixed and maintain a relatively uniform temperature within an area. and pH decrease as distance increases from the river’s source. Many systems show strong diurnal fluctuations and seasonal variations are most extreme in arctic. These levels can decrease significantly during the night when primary producers switch to respiration. turbulent streams expose more of the water’s surface area to the air and tend to have low temperatures and thus more oxygen than slow. as all aerobic organisms require it for survival. Spring fed systems have little variation as springs are typically from groundwater sources.3. however. Water can be heated or cooled through radiation at the surface and conduction to or from the air and surrounding substrate. backwaters. however. In deeper. if the activity of lotic animals is very high.

Inorganic substrates are classified by size on the Wentworth scale. autumn shed leaves. Substrate:.The inorganic substrate of lotic systems is composed of the geologic material present in the catchment that is eroded. as it can be subject to large modifications during flooding events. and to silt.5. sorted. moss. submerged wood. to pebbles. moving smaller substrate materials further downstream for deposition. which ranges from boulders. and deposited by the current. particle size decreases downstream with larger boulders and stones in more mountainous areas and sandy bottoms in lowland rivers. Typically. transported. to gravel. Substrate can also be organic and may include fine particles. This is because the higher gradients of mountain streams facilitate a faster flow. to sand. and more evolved plants. Substrate deposition is not necessarily a permanent event. 6 .

This typically occurs in colder headwaters where the mostly rocky substrate offers attachment sites. 2. such as mosses and liverworts attach themselves to solid objects. [3] which will be discussed in the Trophic Relationships section. and as a food resource. 7 . Other forms are also associated with the guts of lotic organisms as parasites or in commensal relationships. light. develop sizable populations in slow moving rivers and backwaters.] Algae and plants are important to lotic systems as sources of energy. and suspended in the water column. in between particles that compose the substrate.Algae. Free-living forms are associated with decomposing organic material. for forming microhabitats that shelter other fauna from predators and the current. More primitive plants. In places where flow rates are negligible or absent. Living in flowing water can be beneficial to plants and algae because the current is usually well aerated and it provides a continuous supply of nutrients. Periphyton are typically filamentous and tufted algae that can attach themselves to objects to avoid being washed away by fast current. Plants exhibit limited adaptations to fast flow and are most successful in reduced currents. periphyton may form a gelatinous. Others are rooted and may be classified as submerged or emergent. consisting of phytoplankton and periphyton. They can. unanchored floating mat. Bacteria:. These rooted plants are flexible. however. bio film on the surfaces of rocks and vegetation. water chemistry. are the most significant sources of primary production in most streams and rivers. Phytoplankton float freely in the water column and thus are unable to maintain populations in fast flowing streams. and grazing pressure. Primary Producers:. These organisms are limited by flow. with elongated leaves that offer minimal resistance to current. Rooted plants usually occur in areas of slackened current where fine-grained soils are found (Brown 1987).Bacteria are present in large numbers in lotic waters. Some plants are free floating at the water’s surface in dense mats like duckweed or water hyacinth. substrate.Biotic factors 1. Bacteria play a large role in energy recycling.

adrift in the current. and sheltered from the current. Insects and other invertebrates:. are important as both consumers and prey items in lotic systems. never venturing into the open water flow. mussels.Fishes are probably the best-known inhabitants of lotic systems. Like most of the primary consumers. Insects have developed several strategies for living in the diverse flows of lotic systems. Invertebrates. especially insects. including the surfaces of stones. individuals remain close to the bottom or the banks. Instead. These fishes are dorso-ventrallyflattened to reduce flow resistance and often have eyes on top of their heads to observe what is happening above them. as well ascrustaceans like crayfish and crabs. and in the surface film. Continuous swimming expends a tremendous amount of energy and. limpets. Additional invertebrate taxa common to flowing waters include mollusks such as snails. Some avoid high current areas. 4. inhabiting the substratum or the sheltered side of rocks. Fish and other vertebrates:. clams. behind obstacles. Some also have sensory barrels 8 . therefore. These species exhibit tremendous diversity and can be found occupying almost every available habitat.3.Up to 90% of invertebrates in some lotic systems are insects. lotic invertebrates often rely heavily on the current to bring them food and oxygen (Brown 1987). The ability of a fish species to live in flowing waters depends upon the speed at which it can swim and the duration that its speed can be maintained. fishes spend only short periods in full current. swimming in the current only to feed or change locations. Some species have adapted to living only on the system bottom. deep below the substratum. This ability can vary greatly between species and is tied to the habitat in which it can survive.

9 . Other vertebrate taxa that inhabit lotic systems include amphibians. and river dolphins). hippos. such as salamanders. these vertebrates are not tied to water as fishes are.positioned under the head to assist in the testing of substratum.[4] Many fish species are important as consumers and as prey species to the larger vertebrates mentioned above. and spend part of their time in terrestrial habitats. otters. turtles. Lotic systems typically connect to each other. reptiles (e. snakes. forming a path to the ocean (spring → stream → river → ocean). and many fishes have life cycles that require stages in both fresh and salt water. crocodiles and alligators) various bird species. With the exception of a few species. and mammals (e. Salmon. and are born and develop in the ocean and then move into freshwater as adults. beavers..g.g. Eels are catadromous. for example. are anadromous species that are born and develop in freshwater and then move to the ocean as adults.

3. which in turn cause an increase in periphyton abundance. amplifying the impact. and sediment regime of lotic systems. temperature.[3] Finally. over a very wide area and enter the system at many locations along its length. especially nitrogen and phosphorus which are key components of fertilizers. and chemicals to nearby streams and rivers. Urban and residential areas can also add to this pollution when contaminants are accumulated on impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots that then drain into the system. can increase periphyton growth. isolating previously continuous populations. which can be particularly dangerous in slow moving streams. Dams can cause enhanced clarity and reduced variability in stream flow. dams fragment river systems.[5] Also. These substances readily dissolve in atmospheric moisture and enter lotic systems through precipitation. often in small amounts.[5] Another pollutant. Mean species richness and total species numbers within a system decrease with decreasing pH. Pollution:Pollutant sources of lotic systems are hard to control because they derive. Invertebrates immediately below a dam can show reductions in species richness due to an overall reduction in habitat heterogeneity. acid rain. Agricultural fields often deliver large quantities of sediments.Human impacts on ecosystem 1. thermal changes can affect insect development. Flow modification:Dams alter the flow. Elevated nutrient concentrations. Invasive species:- 10 . forms from sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted from factories and power stations. 2. and preventing the migrations of anadromous and catadromous species. nutrients.[4] Additionally. This can lower the pH of these sites. many rivers are dammed at multiple locations. affecting all trophic levels from algae to vertebrates (Brown 1987). with abnormally warm winter temperatures obscuring cues to break egg diapause and overly cool summer temperatures leaving too few acceptable days to complete growth.

or those that have localized endemic species. habitat alteration. This has not only adversely affecting the availability of fresh potable water in the country but also resulting in many contentious and dangerous diseases loss of tourism and harm to the property. It 11 . RIVER POLLUTION IN INDIA River Pollution has become a menace these days. stocking game and food species) as well as unintentional events (e.g. or the introduction of harmful diseases and parasites. such as mussels in the Southeast United States. predation. these species can be difficult to control or eradicate. Even the most prestigious and sacred rivers of India have been facing the curse of pollution for a long time. like lotic systems west of the Rocky Mountains. These organisms can affect natives via competition for prey or habitat. [4] Once established. hybridization. Invasive species can be especially harmful in areas that have endangered biota. All this has been happening due to the fault and negligence of Administrative Agencies and Common Citizens as they are using these precious sources of clean water in absurd and unreasonable manner. hitchhikers on boats or fishing waders).Invasive species have been introduced to lotic systems through both purposeful events (e.g. particularly because of the connectivity of lotic systems. where many species evolved in isolation.

which are considered as “Goddesses” in the Indian Culture. Population 12 . in a sense. With the increasing rate of growth of population.is the need of time that these rivers should be bring back to their natural state by eradicating the pollution so that their water once again become wholesome and clean. in particular. India is a country. They are: 1. in general and on rivers. Though the Programmes of river cleaning are going on these days by the Government of India but the cost of these Programmes is enormous. but also of Environmental Richness. the human causes responsible for pollution of water of rivers are mentioned underneath. which will serve two purposes. the human activities around the bank of rivers also increased. Second.. We can understand the effect of population growth on rivers by a simple formula. The impact of population on environment. the desirable results are yet to be achieved. we cannot claim today the same. River Cleaning Programmes in India. which has rich history.The rapid pace of growth of population in India. But again cleaning these rivers is not an easy task. and unplanned development is resulting in pollution of rivers. still. the eradication on social evils. In this manner. But. is primarily responsible for the significant increase in the level of pollution of rivers. and. But. because in modern time India is suffering from economic crises. like Ganga Action Plan and National River Conservation Plan. Broadly. An intimate relationship is found between human number (population) and environment. First. as lot of money of public has been spended on these Plans. Ample money has been spend on cleaning theses rivers as they are the primary source of water supply to most of the States in India. which results in contamination of water. are also contributing in the economic crises of the country. This money can be saved if we work upon the causes of river pollution. Were these rivers not polluted this money could be utilized for some welfare purpose. not only of social and economic prosperity. Growing population:. is harsh. the rivers will be cleaned once again.

material aspects of per capita consumption of goods and resources. industrial development came without either planning or environmental controls.affluence. The observation of ‘Nobel Committee’ is very significant for the solution of almost all the problems of the world. 2. A 1994 survey of the quality at 138 sampling locations in 22 industrialized zones of India revealed that water of rivers in all 22 zones was not fit for drinking. Using appropriate indices. leather tanneries. Urbanization. due to high bacteriological and heavy metal contamination. refineries. Industrialization:.The most challenging environmental problems India is facing stem from the rapid growth of the polluting industries in the urban areas.economic aspects. for river means. As a result of this large human concentration there are changes that are likely to occur in the urban environment. Poverty contributes equally to both population growth and environmental pollution. it intensifies pressure on the environment. more pollution load. perish due to lack of access to water and sanitation.Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty’.e. Poverty:. chemical and pharmaceutical and dye intermediate industries. i. pulp and paper. The industrial sector has mushroomed in urban agglomeration. 4. these factors can be incorporated into an ‘Environmental Impact Equation’ as under. besides conservation of rivers. For years. Each year. Unplanned growth has caused an overall decline in environmental conditions. mostly poor and deprived. within its physical and socio.In India there has been a major shift of population from rural areas to urban areas with a view to have better livelihood and better standards of living. ‘Poverty’ can be define as the ‘inability of an individual or household to attain a minimal standard of living Unhygienic and insanitary conditions are another by-product of poverty affecting human health. Major industrial sources of pollution in India include fertilizer plants.21 Poverty reduces people’s capacity to use resources in a sustainable manner. and technology of production. 13 . Urbanisation:. 3. metal plating. particularly to the river pollution. between 3 and 4 million people.

useless residues from crop harvesting. Yet. because they involve unmindful and ignorant practices. but these religious activities under the guise of faith.) of the receiving water of the river. Religious and social practices in the Indian Societies in India are glaring example.Faith is a simple word of five letters. farm animals waste consists of excreta. vineyards. they increase bio-chemical oxygen demand (B. It include farm animals wastes. some example of harmful religious and social practices prevailing in India. fertilizers and pesticides etc. Being organic in nature.Agricultural wastes include wastes arising from production and processing of food and other crops and from the raising and slaughter of livestock. 6.5.D. the entire meaning of their existence changes.O. These materials create problem when they allowed to enter into the water sources like rivers and lakes during the cleaning of the confinement areas or during the period of heavy downpour when the run-off carries them into the adjacent rivers or into the other water courses. mass-bathing in rivers and idol immersion in the rivers during the festive seasons . when the five fingers of each hand come together.:. slurry etc. 14 . which cause severe harm to the rivers. yet very powerful when one has it. throwing of carcasses of animals. which are organic in nature. on many occasions this faith cause unimaginable loss to the human beings. Religious and Social Practices. and greenhouse wastes. urine. Burning of dead bodies on the bank of rivers. because they are resulting in damage to the rivers. Agricultural run-off and Improper Agricultural Practices:. More than two billion tones of agricultural wastes produces each year include slaughter house refuses. throwing of un-burnt or half-burnt bodies in the rivers. orchard pruning's. are proving very costly to the rivers. It is like how. People worship the rivers as “Goddesses” or “Devi” with great faith in eternity.

of water of rivers. though unintentionally.Conclusion:It is clear from the aforementioned analysis that our religious and social practices. it may be concluded with this remark that river pollution generally originates from industrial effluents. which is resulting 15 . Therefore. agricultural run-off and domestic sewage. are also contributing in pollution. It seems that there is no end to the misery of rivers.

16 . accompanied by rural exodus to urban areas have had their evil consequences. generally on environment.in environmental-economic loss to the country. and particularly on rivers. and the precious money of the Government exchequer can be saved from expenditure on the river cleaning programmes. so that the rivers can be saved from the curse of pollution. Rapid industrialization and urbanization. The law dealing with the task of prevention and control of river pollution. is need to be set in motion along with public awareness about the importance of pollution free rivers.