Effects of changing climate on european stream invertebrate communities: A long-term data analysis


Long-term observations on riverine benthic invertebrate communities enable assessments of the potential impacts of global change on stream ecosystems. Besides increasing average temperatures, many studies predict greater temperature extremes and intense precipitation events as a consequence of climate change. In this study we examined long-term observation data (10-32 years) of 26 streams and rivers from four ecoregions in the European Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, to investigate invertebrate community responses to changing climatic conditions. We used functional trait and multi-taxonomic analyses and combined examinations of general long-term changes in communities with detailed analyses of the impact of different climatic drivers (i.e., various temperature and precipitation variables) by focusing on the response of communities to climatic conditions of the previous year. Taxa and ecoregions differed substantially in their response to climate change conditions. We did not observe any trend of changes in total taxonomic richness or overall abundance over time or with increasing temperatures, which reflects a compensatory turnover in the composition of communities; sensitive Plecoptera decreased in response to warmer years and Ephemeroptera increased in northern regions. Invasive species increased with an increasing number of extreme days which also caused an apparent upstream community movement. The observed changes in functional feeding group diversity indicate that climate change may be associated with changes in trophic interactions within aquatic food webs. These findings highlight the vulnerability of riverine ecosystems to climate change and emphasize the need to further explore the interactive effects of climate change variables with other local stressors to develop appropriate conservation measures.

Science of the Total Environment