The Oceans Are Missing Their Rivers

In a rhythm that’s pulsed through epochs, a river’s plume carries sediment and nutrients from the continental interior into the ocean, a major exchange of resources from land to sea. More than 6,000 rivers worldwide surge freshwater into oceans, delivering nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, that feed phytoplankton, generating a bloom of life that in turn feeds progressively larger creatures. They may even influence ocean currents in ways researchers are just starting to understand. But today, in rivers around the world, humans are altering this critical phenomenon.