A Report on the River Rhine

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A Report on the River Rhine


The River Rhine stands to be the 3rd largest river in the whole of
Europe, yet is one of the most influential rivers in the world; some
even call it Europe’s main artery. The Rhine is responsible for 10% of
the world’s chemical production, as well as huge amounts of production
of refineries, textiles manufactures, metal works and plastics. On
average around 250 million tones of cargo are transported along the
river Rhine to the necessary factories a year. Despite all the
pollution and other issues it has faced, the condition of the Rhine is
improving dramatically, and still is regarded as the most important
river in Europe.

The Rhine starts off high up in the Swiss Alps and then flows in a
northerly direction, during its journey it flows through some of the
main countries of Europe; Germany, France, The Netherlands, Luxembourg
and many others. It is 1320m long and this makes it the largest river
in the whole of Europe. To be precise it flows from the Alps in
Switzerland through Austria, Germany, France and Luxembourg and
terminates at the North Sea and at the ports in Netherlands near


There are many other important tributaries that flow into the Rhine,
the Rhine splits into two tributaries near Emmerich in Germany and
Zevenaar in Netherlands. Those are the Lek on the north and the Waal
on the south. There are many tributaries such as the Mosselle (Mosel),
that runs in an south westernly direction bordering Luxembourg and on
into France, the Neckar that flows south east at Manneheim on through
Heidelburg, Germany the Main, flowing in an easternly direction and
then south from Mainz through Frankfurt. East of Frankfurt is where
The Rhine-Main-Danube Canal links the Rhine with the Danube providing
a transcontinental route from the North Sea to the Black Sea. This
route is very important for the tones of cargo going through the Rhine

The total catchment area for the river is 185,000km2 Germany has

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100,000km2 and Switzerland, France and the Netherlands each cover
20-30,000kms approximately.

The total number of people living within the catchment is only 50
millions, however when the Rhine floods it is very costly to the

The river is sectioned into 6 parts:

1. The Alpine Rhine- which is from the confluences (basically where a
small river joins onto a larger one) near Reichneau in Switzerland and
then it flows from its sources down to Lake Constance.

2. The Higher Rhine-, which is from Lake Constance to Bäsel where the
river is used for Hydro-Electric Power.

3. Upper Rhine- from Bäsel to Bingen, where it goes over floodplains.

4. Middle Rhine- which is when the river goes from Bingen to Cologne (Germany)
where it passes lots of majestic castles and this part is probably the
most beautiful and is used by companies for cruises for this very

5. Lower Rhine- when it flows from Cologne to Lobith.

6. Delta Rhine- from Lobith to the North Sea.

The River Rhine’s main tributaries are; the Are, Neckar, Main, Nahe,
Lahn. Mosel, Ruhr and the Lippe. Due to the river running through
quite a few countries it has several names due to the change in
language so it is also called the German Rhein, France and Swiss Rhine
and the Dutch

The River Rhine is a major international waterway; it is also one of
the most essential and significant river basins in the whole of Europe.
It is one of the well-known rivers of Europe and pollution has
affected its whole ecosystem in a very bad way.

The river flows from the Alps high in Switzerland to the north of the
country and then west along its border across to Germany while passing
the large city of Bäsel. It then flows north passing France’s border
and one of its main cities called Strasbourg and it keeps on carrying
on north past some of the main cities in Germany such as Cologne and
Mainz. The river then flows west slightly after passing Luxembourg
towards the direction of the north sea and slightly higher than the
Netherlands border to Belgium roughly 45km and then past Rotterdam
(city in Netherlands) and finally goes out into the North Sea.

We say the Mouth of the river is the name for where the river ends and
flows out to a sea or lake and in the River Rhine’s case it is the
North Sea. The river is highly developed with a lot of trade, industry
and also due to agriculture importing and exporting both has caused a
dense population along the river itself. The river is a key
transporting river and is linked to some of the major cites and canals
in Western Europe.

The river as you can see below shows the complete course through all
the countries. As we can see on the map there are lots of tributaries
from the neighbouring countries, a few examples are the Aare in
Switzerland and the Mosel and the Main in Germany. All these and the
many other tributary rivers contribute to the vastness and hugeness of
the River Rhine. It spread through 4 major European countries
including Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and France

River Rhine's Ecosystem

In every ecosystem in the world there are habitats, which vary in
size, the Habitat is the place where a population lives. The
population is the group or number of people of the same organism
living in the same area and during the same period of time. The
populations work together as a community while working with the
non-living organisms around them to form an Ecosystem. The habitat
provides the organisms with things like food, water, oxygen and the
right temperature and minerals.
The World depends quite a bit on the Freshwater ecosystems and is
helpful to a lot of inland and adjacent towns and cities near to these
Freshwater Ecosystems.

Freshwater systems are very dense which allows resistance to moving
animals and also supports them. The animals, which live in the
Freshwater ecosystems must be able to put up with the force of the
fast flowing water, the freshwater water is able to absorb lots of
heat from the sun. The majority of the time the temperature of the
water remains constant but when hot water from industrial cooling
machines are put into the river it causes the fish in the River Rhine
to die and since the temperature goes up it means that the water is
unable to hold far less oxygen which of course it not good for the
fish since all the aquatic life involved need O2.

The places where vegetation and trees do not grow on the banks of the
rivers will obtain a high light intensity on the surface of the water.
The small particles in the water, which are in suspension and
discolour the water take in and absorb the light so the plants in
deeper water will get light to photosynthesise and grow. The drawing
in fig.1 below shows how the light intensity changes for plants,
light, temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide and organic matter as you
go deeper into the water.

1. The main characteristics that are in a Freshwater ecosystem are
mainly the natural or historical flows of patterns for streams,
rivers and lakes. Patterns are crucial to keep the productivity of
aquatic life constant (i.e. the growth of Algae or Phytoplankton)
which form the base of an aquatic food web. If Flow pattern is
maintained then three should be an abundance of aquatic vegetation
such as reeds, grasses, and flowering plants. The characteristic flow
pattern of a lake, wetland, or stream critically affects the algae
productivity and is also an important factor to be considered when
determining how much nutrients there are such as nitrogen and

2. In river systems the movement of sediments and of organic matter
is important to the component and structure of the habitat. Natural
organic inputs and debris such as leaves and decaying plant material.
Especially in the smaller rivers of the Rhine and streams the organic
material that falls into the water provides an important source of
energy and nutrients. In lakes such as the Lake Constance all heavy
sediments fall permanently to the bottom. This provides the
invertebrates, algae, vascular plants, and bacteria that populate the
bottoms of freshwater systems (this helps the food web). These are
highly adapted to adapted to the specific sediment and organic matter
conditions of their environment, which helps them, grow and produce.
These are crucial to the sustaining of Freshwater systems since they
are largely responsible for much of the work of water purification,
decomposition, and nutrient cycling.

3. As explained before the importance of water and light regulation
which helps maintain the aquatic organisms. Water regulates oxygen
concentration, the metabolic rate of organisms and the fitness of
aquatic organisms.

4. Natural nutrient and chemicals, which reflect the natural
environment, climate, bedrock and vegetation type. Simply the better
the water is chemically clean and filled with nutrients the further
alga is produced hence the better biodiversity of aquatic organisms
are found. Algae is fundamental since it is at the bottom of the food
web it supports all the other organisms above it and therefore the
more of it there is the better it is for the aquatic food web.

5. The community of species that lives in a Freshwater ecosystem
reflects both the pool of species available in the region and the
abilities of individual species to colonize and survive in that water
body. The appropriateness of a freshwater ecosystem for any particular
species is dictated by the environmental conditions –such as, water
flow, sediment, temperature, light, and nutrient patterns — and the
presence of, and relations among, other species in the system.
Consequently, both the habitat and the biotic population provide
controls that maintain a varied range of species. High species
richness or biodiversity affords a kind of back up so that natural
functions will continue during environmental stress (i.e. Pollution
and other dangers).

A “sere” is the term used to describe a progression or succession of a
place or vegetation. The River Rhine would come under a Hydrosere,
which is like a Freshwater Ecosystem.

A Hydrosere develops at the edges of a freshwater lake or pond. The
pioneer species are the submerged plants, which can survive completely
under water like algae or phytoplankton. Other plants such as lilies,
which can survive in water and their roots, are generally submerged in
water, and their flowering plants are found above the surface of the
water. As the water becomes shallower as it goes gradually up the bank
you tend to find more aquatic life such as reeds and bulrushes. They
trap even more sediment, which causes it to break the surface, and
this progresses with sledges, shrubs and tress like willows, which
occupy the dry land. The river Rhine is also a wetland. This means the
bank of the Rhine in places slows down the water, which allows silt
and sediments to settle. The wetland plants absorb nutrients such as
nitrates and phosphates. The most likely wetland habitats that would
be found in the River Rhine are generally Invertebrates such as
dragonflies, marsh moths and grasshoppers.

[IMAGE] Although the River Rhine is a large body of moving water it
will also have like a typical Hydrosere some areas with slow moving
water. Slow moving meandering streams and rivers, which contribute, to
the river Rhine will develop the typical characteristics of a
Hydrosere. Running freshwater communities are also known as Lotic
communities, Lotic basically means running water. They are found by a
variety of sources such as Rainfall, Ground Surface water and
underground water.

In the world there are many ecosystems, which are all being endangered
in different ways, but by far the worst ecosystem in danger is the
Freshwater Ecosystems. In Freshwater Ecosystems are found lakes,
steams, rivers and also wetlands. Altogether there were roughly 47
different species of freshwater fish in the River Rhine however now
due to environmental issues this number has been dramatically reduced
to a mere 20 and still this could easily decrease due to lots of
pollution, which shall be later explained. Examples of the types of
freshwater fish found there are Salmon, Trout, Haddock and Rockfish.
There are other things like eels, squid s and octopuses. The total
freshwater only takes up about 1% of the Earth's surface yet its
inhabitants there are very important. There are in total approximately
8,000 types of Freshwater fish, which is about 40% of the total number
of species of fish in the world. The Amazon River in Brazil itself due
to its vastness contains 3,000 species of fish.

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