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Urban infrastructure, hydrology, and biodiversity

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study models the impacts of city infrastructures on the environmental quality of rivers and streams. Cities are hubs of not only sociopolitical power and economic production, but also land transformation and resource consumption. Hard urban infrastructure systems, such as land transformation, water supplies, and electricity production, can extend well beyond a city's boundaries and affect distant aquatic ecosystems. Ryan McManamay and colleagues developed a data-driven model to determine the impact of hard urban infrastructure systems on the hydrology and biodiversity of rivers in the United States. The authors found that urban land transformation and electricity production have affected more than 1,200 fish, mussel, or crayfish species nationwide and contributed to 260 local extinctions. The impacts of individual cities were not associated with population, per-capita energy demand, or energy efficiency, but instead reflected cities' individual infrastructure decisions. For example, Atlanta, whose hard infrastructure network extends across multiple major river basins, affects nearly 12,500 km of rivers and streams and more than 500 indigenous species, whereas Las Vegas, a comparably sized city, affects fewer than 1,000 km of rivers and streams and 19 indigenous species. According to the authors, cities could substantially improve environmental quality in rivers and streams well beyond their boundaries through infrastructure policies.


Article #17-06201: "US cities can manage national hydrology and biodiversity using local infrastructure policy," by Ryan A. McManamay et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ryan A. McManamay, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN; tel: 865-241-8668, 540-808-8695; e-mail: <>

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