Freshwater biodiversity and water quality
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selectionSpecies 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.
- References Adrian, R.; Wilhelm, S. and Gerten, D., 2006. Life-history traits of lake plankton species may govern their phonological response to climate warming. Global Change Biology 12: 652-661. Battarbee, R.; Kernan, M.; Livingstone, D. M.; Nickus, U.; Verdonschot, P.; Hering, D.; Moss, B.; Wright, R. F.; Evans, C. D.; Grimalt, J. O.; Johnson, R.; Maltby, E.; Linstead , C. and Skeffington, R. A., 2008. Freshwater Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change: the Euro-limpacs project (in press). Biodiversity Indicators, 2006. Climate Change: Trend of Southern European dragonfly species. Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels. www.natuurindicatoren.be (updated 08.05.2006). Available at www.natuurindicatoren.be/indicatorenportal.cgi?lang=en&detail=404&idstructuur=25 . Burgmer, T.; Hillebrand, H. and Pfenninger, M., 2007. Effects of climate-driven temperature changes on the diversity of freshwater macroinvertebrates. Oecologia 151: 93-103. Daufresne, M.; Bady, P. and Fruget, J. F., 2007. Impacts of global changes and extreme hydroclimatic events on macroinvertebrate community structures in the French Rhone River. Oecologia 151: 544-559. Daufresne, M.; Roger, M. C.; Capra, H. and Lamouroux, N., 2004. Long-term changes within the invertebrate and fish communities of the Upper Rhone River: effects of climatic factors. Global Change Biology 10: 124-140. Dyble J.; Paerl, H. W. and Neilan, B. A., 2002. Genetic characterization of Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii (Cyanobacteria) isolates from diverse geographic origins based on nifH andcpcBA-IGS nucleotide sequence analysis. Applied Environmental Microbiology 68: 2567-2571. Findlay, D. L.; Paterson, J. J.; Hendzel, L. L. and Kling, H. J., 2005. Factors influencing Gonyostomum semen blooms in a small boreal reservoir lake. Hydrobiologia 533: 243-252. Hari, R. E.; Livingstone, D. M.; Siber, R.; Burkhardt-Holm, P. and Guttinger, H., 2006. Consequences of climatic change for water temperature and brown trout populations in Alpine rivers and streams. Global Change Biology 12: 10-26. Hassall, C.; Thompson, D. J.; French, G. C. and Harvey, I. F., 2007. Historical changes in the phenology of British Odonata are related to climate. Global Change Biology 13: 933-941. Hering et al., 2006. Evaluation of Trichoptera data in relation to climatic gradients. Deliverable No. 190 from the Eurolimpacs European Research Project. http://www.eurolimpacs.ucl.ac.uk/oldsite/docstore/Deliverable_190.pdf . Hickling, R.; Roy, D. B.; Hill, J. K. and Thomas, C. D., 2005. A northward shift of range margins in British Odonata. Global Change Biology 11 (3): 502-506. Jackson, L. J.; Lauridsen, T. L.; Søndergaard, M. and Jeppesen, E., 2007. A comparison of shallow Danish and Canadian lakes and implications of climate change. Freshwater Biology 52: 1782-1792. Jöhnk, K. D.; Huisman, J.; Sharples, J.; Sommeijer, B.; Visser, P. M. and Stroom, J. M., 2008. Summer heatwaves promote blooms of harmful cyanobacteria. Global Change Biology 14: 495-512. Kolar, C. S. and Lodge, D. M., 2000. Freshwater Nonindigenous Species: Interactions with Other Global Changes. In: Mooney, H.A. and Hobbs, R. (eds). Invasive Species in a Changing World. Island Press, Washington, 3-30. Manca, M.; Portogallo, M.; Brown, M. E., 2007: Shifts in phenology of Bythotrephes longimanus and its modern success in Lake Maggiore as a result of changes in climate and trophy. Journal of Plankton Research, 29 (6): 515-525. Mooij, W. M.; Hülsmann, S.; Domis, L. N. D.; Nolet, B. A.; Bodelier, P. L. E.; Boers, P. C. M.; Pires, L. M. D.; Gons, H. J.; Ibelings, B. W.; Noordhuis, R.; Portielje, R.; Wolfstein, K. and Lammens, E. H. R. R., 2005. The impact of climate change on lakes in The Netherlands: a review. Aquatic Ecology 39 (4): 381-400. Nõges et al. (in press). The impact of variations in the climate on seasonal dynamics of phytoplankton. Ch. 14 in: D. G. George (ed.) The impact of climate change on European lakes. Springer. Schindler, D. W., 2001. The cumulative effects of climate warming and other human stresses on Canadian freshwaters in the new millennium. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 58: 18-29. Walsh, C. L. and Kilsby, C. G., 2006. Potential impacts of climate change on Atlantic salmon: case study in the Eden catchment, Cumbria, UK. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. In press (abstract). Weyhenmeyer, G. A.; Blenckner, T. and Pettersson, K., 1999. Changes of the plankton spring outburst related to the North Atlantic Oscillation. Limnology and Oceanography 44: 1788-1792. Weyhenmeyer, G. A., 2001. Warmer winters -- are planktonic algal populations in Sweden's largest lakes affected? Ambio 30: 565-571. Wilhelm, S. and Adrian, R., 2008. Impact of summer warming on the thermal characteristics of a polymictic lake and consequences for oxygen, nutrients and phytoplankton. Freshwater Biology 53 (2): 226-237.
- 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
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: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
No related policy documents have been specified
Key policy question
Methodology for indicator calculation
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- Summer heatwaves promote blooms of harmful cyanobacteria
- Biological Records Centre
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
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.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoPeter Kristensen
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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