Climate change and freshwater ecosystems
Climate Change will have severe impacts on structure and function of rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Within a large EU-funded project (www.eurolimpacs.ucl.ac.uk) we focus on the relation between climate, discharge dynamics, habitat and assemblage composition in rivers and on indicator organisms for assessing the impact of climate change on freshwater biota.
More variable discharge, which is supposed to be a consequence of climate change in many European ecoregions, may contribute to the development of multiple-channel patterns in mountain streams. By means of pairwise comparison of river sections characterized by multiple- and single-channel patterns we investigate the effects on hydromorphology, fish, benthic and riparian invertebrates.
Similarly, we compare river stretches heated by power plants to unimpacted sections, to predict the impact of increasing water temperatures on river assemblages. We also consider parasites of aquatic organisms, as their life cycles are temperature dependent, to predict the impact of climate change on parasite infection intensity. Moreover, parasite are able to interfere with host’s protection mechanisms against increasing temperatures.