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GRP Global Update: September 2011

GRP Hosts Delegation from China’s Yangtze 

The Great Rivers Partnership (GRP) hosted a delegation from China in the U.S. in mid-July. The delegation was part of the GRP’s ongoing collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to assist Chinese scientists in developing the methods and protocols needed to monitor and assess fish communities in the Yangtze River basin.

The group included Ma Yi and Zhao Yimin, high-ranking officials with the Yangtze River Fisheries Resources Management Committee in Shanghai, and Professor Yao Weizhi with the Fishery Resources and Environment Research Center at Southwest University in Chongqing. Yang Bo, a wetland specialist from the Conservancy’s China Program, and Dr. Yao Yin, U.S. Geological Survey and GRP Director of International Strategies, accompanied the delegation.

Staff at the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle gave the group an overview of the center’s aquatic research programs including integrated large river monitoring, invasive species, fish passage at hydropower dams, water quality below hydropower dams, dam removal and treatment of fish diseases.

Scientists at the Illinois River Biological Station at Havana demonstrated the use of electro-shocking to quantify fish populations. Later in the day, the group joined Dr. Jim Garvey and his associate Dr. David Glover from the Southern Illinois University on their research vessel where they demonstrated how sonar is used to identify and count silver and bighead carp in the river. The Chinese visitors were amazed to see so many “familiar faces” as hundreds of silver carp jumped around them.

“I have seen photos and video of jumping carp in the Illinois River,” Zhao Yimin commented. “I assumed it only happened at a particular place at a particular time. Seeing it happening today everywhere and at such scale and intensity exceeded my wildest imagination. We have to figure out why it is no longer happening in the Yangtze River.”

The highlight of the trip may have been fishing at the Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve at Lewistown, Illinois, where staff shared the success they’ve had with wetland restoration. Although the visitors are fisheries experts, they had never sport-fished with a rod and reel before. In an hour-and-a-half, they caught (and released) about 50 largemouth bass. “Their excitement was contagious,” said Doug Blodgett, GRP advisor and the Conservancy’s director of river conservation in Illinois.

“The visit was a great opportunity to share with these high-ranking officials some of the science and techniques related to river resources monitoring and restoration that we are sharing with their scientists on the Yangtze,” Yao Yin said. “And we hope it will also set the stage for future research exchanges with USGS and the GRP's university partners including Southern Illinois University.”

Advancing the Mississippi River Vision

With support from The McKnight Foundation, the Great Rivers Partnership is mobilizing America’s leading institutions, corporations, multi-lateral organizations, experts and government to develop a vision, promote outreach, engage other leaders and determine a set of shared sustainability options for Mississippi River Basin management.

With financial backing and leadership from the GRP, basin stakeholders have launched the Mississippi Watershed Initiative (MWI), a concept developed following America’s Inner Coast Summit (AICS) in June 2010, where 117 public and private stakeholder groups gathered to discuss advancement of this concept.

The MWI recently refined its direction and created a Proposed Call to Action during a consultation meeting held in Kansas City in July. Nearly 50 participants from varied backgrounds and areas within the Mississippi River Basin met to evaluate the successes and lessons learned from other large-scale national ecosystem initiatives. Additionally, break-out groups identified the need for watershed health indicators, communications and outreach support, and capacity to address organizational issues such as structure, funding and administrative support.

The meeting concluded with enthusiastic participants agreeing to collaboratively build awareness and support for the MWI, to define measures for success and collectively build toward the next major AICS II gathering in the summer of 2012.

GRP Presents at International Science Symposium

In August, the International Society for River Science (ISRS) hosted its 2nd Biennial Symposium in Berlin, Germany, bringing together many of the world’s leading scientists to discuss rivers as linked systems. The event offered the GRP a platform to share its successes and gain insight on the challenges facing global river managers as they work towards a systems approach.

Michael Reuter, director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Freshwater Program and the GRP, presented Great Rivers That Work for People and Nature as part of the socio-ecology session —outlining the mission, operating principles and global accomplishments of the GRP over the first five years. Complementing this, a session titled Identifying Globally ‘Great’ Rivers for Integrated River Basin Management was presented Dr. David Galat, GRP science advisor. Dr. Galat summarized progress on socio-economic, biodiversity, enabling and hydro-geographic criteria for selecting future focal rivers for the GRP.

Both GRP team members actively participate in ISRS operations, with Reuter representing non-governmental organizations on the ISRS board of directors and Dr. Galat serving on the editorial board of the Society’s international journal, River Research and Applications.

GRP participation helped advance two critical success factors that make up part of its strategic plan: 1) building our network of experts as GRP advisors for sustainable river basin management, and 2) creating global brand recognition of the GRP as a credible expert voice on integrated river basin management.

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