Tanzania - Lake Natron

Alcolapia species of Lake Natron, Tanzania

Lake Natron is an inhospitable body of water in northern Tanzania with a pH above 11, too caustic for any fish to survive. The lake is home to millions of flamingoes, feeding on algae in the shallow water. The Alcolapia species are restricted to small volcanic springs around the margins of the lake where a pH above 10, temperatures between 30-40°C, fluctuating dissolved oxygen levels (0.08-6.46 mg/l) and high salt concentrations have led to the evolution of three of the most exremely adapted fishes anywhere. 

Like other shallow lake habitats the region is under threat from desertification, but also a planned trona (sodium carbonate) mine. This Soda ash is used in the manufacture of glass, chemicals, and detergents.

The lake itself has a surface area of nearly 400 km2, but just how large is the actual habitat available to the fishes? How has the region changed in the last 50 years and can we observe a trend in the decline of the habitat available to these species? 

Fish + Forest seeks to answer these questions using historical photographs, satellite imagery and UAV images to calculate and map the space available for the fishes, assess their population density and document their behaviour and ecology under water. 


Canada -1000 Islands

Carbon and Phosphate tied up by aquatic and marginal plants...

Wetlands such as peatlands, freshwater ecosystems and estuarine habitats play a significant role in the North American carbon balance. While most of the North American wetland carbon is found in peatlands, aquatic and marginal plants in coastal and inland aquatic ecosystems such as tidal flats, marshes, rivers and lakes are also important due to their high vegetation productivity and the ability to fix large amounts of carbon, and remove pollutants and excess nutrients such as phosphates.

The St. Lawrence River drains the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean.  Its watershed (~680,000 km2) comprises several aquatic ecosystem types including fluvial, lacustrine, estuarine and marine.   While the St. Lawrence River ecosystems are among the most biodiverse in Quebec, they are also under substantial anthropogenic pressures with over 90% of the population residing along the shores.   

Using a combination of high resolution aerial and underwater mapping technologies, Fish + Forest seeks to determine the extent and biomass of Typha sp. marshes and Saggitaria sp. beds in the 1000 Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.  Both are important contributors to the carbon  storage and water quality of aquatic and marginal ecosystems in the St. Lawrence River.


Example of a 3D reconstruction of Typha sp. growing in freshwater from low altitude UAV videography.


Close-up view of the 3D Typha sp. reconstruction.   

Brazil - Rio Xingú

Expedition Videos

Check out out Xingu River expedition videos here - inlcuding a live broadcast from Amazon in collaboration with DJI in 2016! 


A river in peril - the Rio Xingú rapids

The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, the third largest hydroelectric project on the planet, will significantly change the Xingú river, using up to 80% of its water to power the turbines, significantly reducing the flow of one of Brazil’s most diverse and spectacular rivers. Rheophile fish species, especially catfishes of the family Loricaridae, found only in the rapids of the Rio Xingú may not survive the human encroachment to their habitat. Sciencists have not yet described many of the endemic species already under threat in the river. How will the mega-project affect the river’s ecosystem, and the forests along the banks? 

Many of the river’s endemic species such as Hypancistrus zebra, Baryancistrus xanthellus, Teleocichla centisquamma, Ossubtus xinguensis, Potamotrygon leopoldi, Scobinancistrus aureatus and many others now face a significant loss of habitat, with the looming threat of extinction for those species found only below the dam, or in the flooded reservoir above it. 

Vast sections, including 400 km2 of untouched forest in the region will be lost in the initial stage of construction alone. INPA (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazôniacalculated that during its first 10 years, the Belo Monte-Babaquara dam complex will emit 11.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (CDE) and nearly an additional tonne CDE during the construction phase.  

Using satellite images and data collected on the ground we plan to track the change and how it is affecting the river. 

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