River basins provide a complex ecological laboratory to study how hydrology, ecology and biodiversity interact. Researchers believe that studying these systems could provide useful information about disease outbreaks and nutrient distribution systems at the regional scale. The EU-funded RINEC (River networks as ecological corridors for biodiversity, populations and waterborne disease (RINEC)) initiative aimed to use real-world data and computational modelling to create a predictive theoretical framework of river systems. RINEC produced a model that uses hydrological information to predict the impact of climate change on biodiversity and species richness in an area. The model focused on how rivers provide species niches and act as dispersal agents. Another aspect of the research studied a mussel invasion in the Mississippi-Missouri river system and created a model to describe and explain the phenomenon. Researchers showed that hydrologic factors alone were not enough to drive the invasion, suggesting that commercial and recreational boating played a significant role. The models created by RINEC have shed light on the importance of river systems in global species movement and overall biodiversity. These results highlight the connected nature of the natural world.
Biodiversity, ecology, river networks, disease outbreaks, RINEC, river systems