Mar 19, 2013

Stream isotherm shifts from climate change and implications for distributions of ectothermic organisms

Global Change Biology
Daniel J Isaak, Bruce E Rieman


Stream ecosystems are especially vulnerable to climate warming because most aquatic organisms are ectothermic and live in dendritic networks that are easily fragmented. Many bioclimatic models predict significant range contractions in stream biotas, but subsequent biological assessments have rarely been done to determine the accuracy of these predictions. Assessments are difficult because model predictions are either untestable or so imprecise that definitive answers may not be obtained within timespans relevant for effective conservation. Here, we develop the equations for calculating isotherm shift rates (ISRs) in streams that can be used to represent historic or future warming scenarios and be calibrated to individual streams using local measurements of stream temperature and slope. A set of reference equations and formulas are provided for application to most streams. Example calculations for streams with lapse rates of 0.8 °C/100 m and long-term warming rates of 0.1-0.2 °C decade(-1) indicate that isotherms shift upstream at 0.13-1.3 km decade(-1) in steep streams (2-10% slope) and 1.3-25 km decade(-1) in flat streams (0.1-1% slope). Used more generally with global scenarios, the equations predict isotherms shifted 1.5-43 ...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Aquatic Organisms
Projections and Predictions
Contraction (Finding)
Climate Change

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