What is the ecology of a river?

What exactly is the ecology of a river? The ecology of a river adheres to the relationships that living animals and organisms have in common with each other and the environment itself. We can call this the ecosystem. What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is the total amount of every interaction between all the organisms — plants, animals, bacteria — everything, between the physical and chemical components of the environments natural background.

Most river ecosystems all have several things that are in common. These include, but are not limited to: flowing undistilled water, a physical state that is in continuous change, a variety of ever-changing microhabitats — a total random spontaneity in the rate of the water flow. And of course, animals and plants that have learned and adapted to exist in the conditions of the river.

Water flow is usually the leading factor that makes the ecology of a river so much different from other water-based ecosystems. This type of system is known as a “lotic,” which means flowing water system. The flow, or speed of the water, can always vary from speeding rapids, to slow calm waters. This rate of the water also may set the natural turbulence of the water. The flow of water can be changed by sudden downpours of water due to rain, groundwater, and especially melting snow in climates that are colder. The water in the river alters the shape, curves, edges, and overall size of the riverbed through sedimentation and erosion — two of the terms used to describe this natural occurrence.

Substrate. The substrate is the surface of the river where all the living organisms of the river co-exist with each other. This surface is made up of things that are inorganic. Inorganic materials are usually labeled as geological materials and muck from nearby areas of the river. This geological “silt” usually consists of grains from rocks, pebbles, boulders, gravel, dirt, and sand. The substrate is not permanent, and its consistency is constantly changing over time, due to the weather and climate. The substrate is especially subject to massive changes during heavy flooding.

Light. Light gives the required energy used to begin the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis creates the primary sources of food that the river and all its inhabitants need. Furthermore, light provides places for species of prey (because of the shadows that light creates) which gives them places to hide and wait accordingly. However, the amounts of light that a flowing river can receive on an average sunny day vary greatly and depends on a numerous amount of factors. For instance, if the river is located near a forest, the shadows from the trees can strongly block out the suns rays throughout most of the day. The overhanging trees on the side of the river can reduce the amount of light exposed to the river for most of the day. And, deeper rivers have more turbulence. The particles that are in the water slowly weaken the amount of light that reaches the deeper waters over time.

Ohio is an “average” state when it comes to just about everything. Take a look at a typical wild river and it’s make -up.