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Freshwater biodiversity and water quality

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Topics: ,
Indicator codes: CLIM 021

This indicator is no longer being regularly updated

Updated information on this topic is available in Section 3.3.7 of the EEA Report No 12/2012 (

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Species and habitat dynamics in the face of climate change are complex and have many aspects. Increased temperatures and CO2 concentrations will have an effect on different processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and decomposition and generally speed up these processes. Climate-induced changes in ice cover period, thermal stratification and nutrient availability and longer growing seasons affect species composition and food web structures.
Water temperature is one of the parameters that determine the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. Most aquatic organisms (e.g. salmonid fish) have a specific range of temperatures that they can tolerate, which determines their spatial distribution along a river or on a regional scale. Climate change could lead to the extinction of some aquatic species or at least could modify their distribution in a river system or move their distribution northwards. Several indications of climate impact on the functioning and biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems have already been observed, such as northward movement, phenology changes and invasive alien species.
Enhanced harmful algal blooms in lakes resulting from climate change may counteract nutrient load reduction measures and also require a revision of classification systems for ecological status assessment. The inclusion of additional nutrient load reduction measures in river basin management plans may be needed to obtain good ecological status, as required by the Water Framework Directive. Public health may be threatened and the use of lakes for drinking water and recreation may be reduced.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Northward shift and changes in occurrence of selected freshwater species
  • Model simulation of hydrodynamics and phytoplankton dynamics during three contrasting summers in Lake Nieuwe Meer (the Netherlands)
  • The share of Trichoptera taxa sensitive to climate change in the European Ecoregions


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified


Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Peter Kristensen


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 021
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100