As with all ecosystems, the existence and operations of human society inevitably have an effect on the way of life in a freshwater community. Particularly in the Western society, where a huge amount of resources are harnessed from the land to fund lifestyle, there is a resulting effect on the ecosystems of the planet.
For each action that man takes in this lifestyle, there is a resultant effect on the ecosystem, and the following looks at some scenarios where human action results in a response from the ecosystem, either physically or chemically, which in the long run affects the lives of organisms that live in these communities;
Hot water is used in many industries to cool machinery. This water is often removed via a discharge pipe into the river.
This increase in temperature can affect the level of oxygen freely available to organisms, which, in turn affects respiration and essentially their way of life. Due to this temperature change, life in the fresh water ecosystem is affected.
Removal of foliage next to a freshwater ecosystem allows more running water to enter its capacity.
In light of this, periods of heavy rainfall can result in the water levels fluctuating greatly, which in turn can also affect the temperature of the water quite considerably not to mention all the new chemical agents that would enter the stream from this extra water.
Recreational use of water bodies such as canoeing also has an impact on fresh water ecosystems. Litter introduced through this activity can remain on the surface of water and block out sunlight required by the primary producers for photosynthesis.
If these primary producers’ way of life is affected in such a way that their population level decreases, there is a knock on effect to all those organisms that rely on these primary producers for survival.
At a molecular level, chemicals discharged into the water, notably from industries or pesticides from farmland can affect the freshwater environment considerably.
Higher concentrations of particular chemicals (perhaps toxic) mean a lower concentration of essential chemicals required by the organisms of the ecosystem.
If this scenario prevails, the fresh water organisms would not perform respiration and function at an optimum level, thus reducing overall biomass in the ecosystem.
Fishing activities have been recognized to have great effect on fresh water ecosystems. These activities, apart from directly having a toll on the existing species within the ecosystem, have often been accompanied with the introduction of some materials into the water.
These materials have often been discovered to impact negatively on the entire ecosystem functioning and stability.
In places where trawlers are used for fishing activities, the trawl nets are dragged along the seabed sweeping up all the fish in their path, while at the same time smashing ancient corals, ripping up sponges and destroying the other marine life which makes up these fragile deep sea communities that have taken thousands of years to develop.
Other human activities such as construction, building, cultivation and deforestation also have far reaching implications on adjacent fresh water ecosystems.
These activities increase the debris and other eroded materials in the fresh water, which also affects the available oxygen for organisms in the water bodies. This also affects the overall composition and quality of the water, and thus the general livelihood of the organisms.
As is already known, there are many environmental factors that arise due to the usage of water in one way or another by our species.
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The most important fact to take from this is that when we use water in the above examples, we are upsetting the fine balance of the ecosystem as a whole, thus enabling far reaching disruptions in the lifestyles of other organisms living in that particular ecosystem.
In conclusion therefore, we can summarize that human effects on aquatic ecosystems can result from pollution, changes to the landscape or hydrological systems, and larger-scale impacts such as global climate change.
The complexity of aquatic ecosystems and the linkages within them can make the effect of disturbances on them difficult to predict.
These linkages mean that damage to one component of the ecosystem can lead to impacts on other ecosystem components.
Increasing our understanding of aquatic ecosystems can lead to better practices that minimize impacts on aquatic environments.
In light of this, and with more consideration towards our environment, conservation measures should be used to ensure little or no detrimental damage is caused to these environments, while at the same time man can continue to harness the water as a valuable resource.
Management of Fresh Water Ecosystems
This involves the activities of man that are aimed at ensuring the protection and conservation of fresh water ecosystems and communities in general.
Such activities are always the deliberate efforts of man which not only improve the condition of the fresh waters, but are also geared towards conserving the entire communities. These activities of man include the following;
1. Aquatic Weed Management
This refers to the deliberate activities embarked upon by man, which are aimed at controlling weeds and other aquatic plants. This is often done in all types of aquatic ecosystems.
2. Farm Ponds
This relates to all attempts that are meant to enhance the effective and sustainable existence and operations of aquatic communities. This activity involves the construction, fertilization, recirculation, and general management of ponds and other water reservoirs.
3. Fish Production
Aquaculture is a human activity that involves the management of fish farms. This activity which aims at improving the production of different categories of fish also ensures the general management of the entire ecosystems in which the fish and other aquatic organisms survive.
The production of fish has gained population in many countries also involves the conservation of the ponds or water bodies in which the fish is reared.
4. Pond and Lake front Revegetation
In many areas, deliberate attempts are made to enhance the landscape management, revegetation of adjacent aquaculture farms.
This activity also improves on the conditions the adjacent terrestrial ecosystem, and ultimately restricts the possibility of contamination of the aquatic community.
Fresh water management has been extended to the creation of artificial lakes or ponds for the purpose of recreation.
Since such Ponds are deliberately conserved and protected, the aquatic communities are by implication being protected from wanton human influences.
6. Controlled fishing
In realization of the increased intensity of fishing activities in many parts of the world, attempts have been made to put in place some policies, and sometimes legislations, to guard against destruction of fish and their habitats.
This is especially prominent in developing countries where the use of chemicals and other toxic materials for fishing is rampant.
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