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Water 2017, 9(3), 219; doi:10.3390/w9030219

The Human Threat to River Ecosystems at the Watershed Scale: An Ecological Security Assessment of the Songhua River Basin, Northeast China

1
State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
2
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Sharon B. Megdal
Received: 6 December 2016 / Revised: 7 March 2017 / Accepted: 13 March 2017 / Published: 16 March 2017
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Abstract

Human disturbances impact river basins by reducing the quality of, and services provided by, aquatic ecosystems. Conducting quantitative assessments of ecological security at the watershed scale is important for enhancing the water quality of river basins and promoting environmental management. In this study, China’s Songhua River Basin was divided into 204 assessment units by combining watershed and administrative boundaries. Ten human threat factors were identified based on their significant influence on the river ecosystem. A modified ecological threat index was used to synthetically evaluate the ecological security, where frequency was weighted by flow length from the grids to the main rivers, while severity was weighted by the potential hazard of the factors on variables of river ecosystem integrity. The results showed that individual factors related to urbanization, agricultural development and facility construction presented different spatial distribution characteristics. At the center of the plain area, the provincial capital cities posed the highest level of threat, as did the municipal districts of prefecture-level cities. The spatial relationships between hot spot locations of the ecological threat index and water quality, as well as the distribution areas of critically endangered species, were analyzed. The sensitivity analysis illustrated that alteration of agricultural development largely changed the ecological security level of the basin. By offering a reference for assessing ecological security, this study can enhance water environmental planning and management. View Full-Text
Keywords: human threat; river ecosystem integrity; ecological security assessment; watershed scale; ecological threat index; Songhua River Basin human threat; river ecosystem integrity; ecological security assessment; watershed scale; ecological threat index; Songhua River Basin
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Shen, Y.; Cao, H.; Tang, M.; Deng, H. The Human Threat to River Ecosystems at the Watershed Scale: An Ecological Security Assessment of the Songhua River Basin, Northeast China. Water 2017, 9, 219.

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