One of the most frequent topics of discussion is the ecological relevance of waterscapes in their cultural analysis. The link between cultural and natural dimensions might be more relevant and informative if we remain focused on the hydrological system of a landscape. This is most likely due to the unconscious reference and basic geographical characteristic of rivers and canals: fresh water, the source of life. Rivers symbolise nature’s tremendous power, as noted by many scholars; they are also, according to Coates (2013 , p. 11), ‘the lifeblood of communities, they provide habitat and sustenance (river of life). Herodotus characterised ancient Egypt as the “gift of Nile” (her floods, the tears of the goddess Isis)’. It is indeed fundamental to consider the complex layers of waterscapes from different perspectives, but we argue that inland waterways could be better investigated as cultural ecosystem services, especially in relationship to the concepts of landscape and heritage (Tengberg et al., 2012 ). Human cultures are strongly influenced by ecosystems; ecosystem changes can signifi cantly impact cultural identity and social stability. In this context, it is useful to take into consideration the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005) as an infl uential document that recognised how human cultures, knowledge systems, religions, heritage values, social interactions and associated amenity services have always been infl uenced and shaped by the nature of ecosystems and ecosystem conditions on which culture is based. At the same time, people have always infl uenced and shaped the environment to enhance the availability of certain valued services. In the context of waterscapes, to gather the evolutionary dynamics adopted by humans (depending on knowledge and social context) in different water contexts could help us understand the practical choices of a profi table coexistence with a specifi c environment where the hydrosphere prevails ( Cosgrove and Petts, 1990 ).
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