Two-thirds of the longest rivers no longer flow freely—and it's harming us

“This is the most comprehensive assessment of river connectivity that’s ever been done, and it shows we are losing our longest, free-flowing rivers,” says Michele Thieme, lead freshwater scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, which spearheaded the mapping project together with McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

Most of the long, free-flowing rivers are found in remote and inaccessible regions where hydropower development may not have been feasible in the past. As engineering technology improves, however, this is now changing. In the world’s largest river basin, the Amazon in South America, there are plans for up to 500 dams to be built across the region. “This would completely change the ecology of the system,” says Perry, who has worked extensively in the Amazon.

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