Sustainable inland waterways should meet the needs of navigation without compromising the
health of riverine ecosystems. Here we propose a hierarchical model to describe sustainable
development of the Golden Inland Waterways (GIWs) which are characterized by great
bearing capacity and transport need. Based on datasets from 66 large rivers (basin area >
100,000 km2) worldwide, we identify 34 GIWs, mostly distributed in Asia, Europe, North
America, and South America, typically following a three-stage development path from the
initial, through to the developing and on to the developed stage. For most GIWs, the
exploitation ratio, defined as the ratio of actual to idealized bearing capacity, should be less
than 80% due to ecological considerations. Combined with the indices of regional development,
GIWs exploitation, and riverine ecosystem, we reveal the global diversity and
evolution of GIWs’ sustainability from 2015 to 2050, which highlights the importance of
river-specific strategies for waterway exploitation worldwide.
“The Key Laboratory of Water and Sediment Sciences, Ministry of Education, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, P. R. China
Beijing Innovation Center for Engineering Science and Advanced Technology, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, P. R. China”
Copyright: doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15354-1 © The Author(s) 2020.