The Anthropocene: Rivers and resilience

Jason A. DeBoer, Martin C. Thoms, Michael D. Delong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The ‘Anthropocene’ is proposed as the latest geological epoch, one where human activity dominates the forces of nature. Humans have been reshaping riverine landscapes for thousands of years, and it is assumed present-day river systems are reflective of the Anthropocene. Riverine landscapes and the ecosystems contained within them are dynamic and change naturally over time and space in response to many drivers operating at a range of scales. They are ’disturbance driven’ systems. This raises theoretical and applied questions, like ‘does the structure and function of rivers in the Anthropocene differ from natural rivers?’, and ‘do rivers in the Anthropocene differ from natural rivers in their ability to respond to multiple disturbances?’ In this chapter we use principles of resilience thinking to examine the structure and function of a large river ecosystem that has been substantially affected by human activity for over 100 years. We suggest that resilience thinking provides a theoretical foundation for understanding how complex systems, exemplified by rivers, absorb disturbances, or change regimes, in response to local disturbances such as flood events and system-wide anthropogenic disturbances like land-use modifications, urbanisation and flow regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResilience and Riverine Landscapes
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780323917162
ISBN (Print)9780323972055
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Fish diversity
  • Food webs
  • Homogenisation
  • Novel ecosystems
  • Trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'The Anthropocene: Rivers and resilience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this