Our Planet season 1 review: A deteriorating circle of life

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A green turtle glides over the pristine reefs of Heron Island, on the southern section of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo Credit: Netflix

Episode 7: Fresh Water

Freshwater is a vital factor for the sustenance of life on earth. Two-thirds of the fresh water on earth is frozen on the poles while 30% is under the earth. With climate change creating increasing unpredictability in the availability of fresh water, ecosystems everywhere are rapidly changing and possibly, for the worse.

The Central Australian desert, where the existence of life is impossible, sees a transformation once a decade when rainfall transforms it into the largest lake in Australia, Lake Eyre, which become breeding grounds for pelicans thanks to the abundance of fish. This transformation is vital for the pelicans and for this process to start, 2000 km away, where moisture-laden clouds start to form and burst over the Australian continent.

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Supply of fresh water across the earth involves intricate systems of dependencies, and small aberrations can impact different species of animals very differently. Damming of rivers in northern regions has inhibited salmon supply, which in turn has caused depletion of a food source for the Alaskan brown bear. Manatees in Florida are losing their winter homes thanks to the pollutants in the natural freshwater springs that Florida has an abundance of.

Among the many things, this episode show us the rigor of torrent ducks as they brave powerful, oxygen-rich currents, the jaguars hunting for the capybara and crocodiles in the tropical wetland, Pantanal, in Brazil and the amusing tale of the callipterus cichlid, that sometimes resort to thievery of shells from their fellow species to attract females. Elephants struggle for water in the East African plain and rely on the water retention capacity of the Baobab trees.

The Mekong River, with the widest waterfalls in the world, is rich with sediment and is important to 60 million people for their livelihood. While it has the largest inland fishery, the people practicing fishing here, set up their nets across only half across the length of the river, leaving the flow on the other half free to allow some fish to continue their journey upstream. Despite this, damming of the river has restricted its expansion to its full size in the rainy season.

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IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: Our Planet gives the impression that fresh water is increasingly threatened, because nearly every source of fresh water we see in this, is deterred in some form or the other by human beings. Damming and industrialized fishing are causing drying up of rivers, only because of the scale, and yet, it’s not too late if humans just practiced a more restrained and sustainable form of development.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The Caño Cristales, the rainbow river, located in Colombia, is breathtaking. Thanks to the little bit of sediment and sunlight, plant life is rich in this river and is a sight to behold in the sun owing to the striking colors.