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The Rhine as a World River.docx

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University of Guelph
HIST 2250
Mary Ann Cyphers- Reiche

The Rhine as a World River  Mark Cioc - One of greatest commercial streams (second to the Mississippi) - 9 in size of Eurasian rivers - Flows steeply and quickly in its upper reaches and becomes slower and braided in its middle stretches, sluggish as reaches the delta – picks up tributary rivers along the way – flows year round (more consistent than most rivers) - Central to Europe’s industrial and urban life - 50 mill live in the Rhine watershed - Used for transport, industrial production, urban sanitation, and energy production – making it one of the most biologically degraded streams (habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity) - Drop in living space for nonhuman organisms in the river - Main channel shortened - 80% of its original floodplain - Flows more swiftly w less variation than the past = hostile enviro for fish  impossible for them to migrate as their life cycles dictate - Water pollution and enviro for only those resistant to salt - Thermal pollution reduced seasonal variations in water temp (almost never freezes) and chemical pollution led to accumulation of heavy metals and persistent organic compounds in the rivers silt and sediment – cant support native species - Two processes intertwined: destruction as a biological habitat is a direct consequence of political, economic, hydraulic ideologies and practices rooted deep in Europe’s past - manner in which it was engineered to serve the needs of Industrial Europe during the 19 cent brought w it negative ecological consequences still w us today - 3 changes had a big impact: channel straightening (done for water regulation and navigation), floodplain destruction (consequence of land reclamation – flood control), water pollution (b/c of using the river as an urban and industrial sewer) - Rise to one of most prominent rivers began in 1815 placed the river under an international regime - Constructed b/w 1815 and 1975 was a reflection of Europe’s past - Modern Rhine a product of ideologies and practices inherited from the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and 19 cent liberalism - Most European rivers products of Renaissance-era engineering practices - River engineering central to state-building process - Straight and fast idea from Italian engineers - Belief rivers were in need of being “domesticated” “tamed” or “harnessed”, ideal river a canal - Economics: the French revolutions liberal trade policies - By agreeing to an international Rhine, Vienna diplomats were accepting yet another French Revolutionary goal - From liberal economic theory to liberal economic practice a messy matter – Dutch cut off part of Rhine for trade – places refused to give up their trade privileges until the Dutch took came back to negotiating - When Germany joined the commission 1950 it became a fully international river - All involved merely concerned themselves with global trade, not other issues associated w the enviro – gave rise to the “tragedy of the commons” The Ecology of Rhine Engineering - Can see rivers as a line in the landscape, the trunk of a watershed or an artery of a biological habitat o River just a channel of water and sediment downstream o Highlights inseparability of a bank and channel from a watershed o Fullest – suggests rivers (as carriers of water) lie at the conflux of psychochemical and biological worlds, providing space for ppl and wildlife - Enlightenment was viewed in the narrowest sense (1) - Too diverse to treat as a single ecosystem – usually divided into 2 parts o The Alpine: Alpenrhein tributary system, Aare tributary system, and the high Rhine trout& grayling the indicator fish species (delineate a bioregion) , alder& willow most common trees – engineering focused on hydroelectric devt& flood control o Upper Rhine, Middle Rhine, Lower Rhine, Delta Rhine open to sea traffic, barbell/bream/ flounder, oak& elm dominant, focus on negative impacts navigational improvements have had on the rivers flora and fauna  Delta Rhine: Netherlands, lower/middle: Germany, upper: Germany & France - Delta Rhine had 2 defects in drainage pattern: channels too shallow, lacking gradient to carry sediment& ice flows efficiently to the north sea, delta mouths too marrow to keep all the water flowing in channels during peak discharge periods o Waal overflows,
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