Princeton researchers have a new paper in the May 8 issue of the journal Nature which shows that water dynamics play a pivotal role in the biodiversity of river networks. The team has created a computer simulation that allows them to predict – based on rainfall measurements and on how rivers connect to one another — how many species of fish will occupy any given region.

The model is expected to be useful in predicting the impact of climate change on fish biodiversity, according to Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton and the leader of the research group. “It is an extremely simple model but it predicts absolutely fantastically well all of the characteristics of biodiversity that we were interested in,” he said.

Paolo D’Odorico, associate professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, called the research “exquisitely original and thought-provoking.”

The lead author of the Nature paper is Rachata Muneepeerakul, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton Princeton who received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 2007.

Below you can view an interview/slideshow of Rodriguez-Iturbe. (Above image courtesy of Enrico Bertuzzo of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.)