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Predicting the potential long-term influence of climate change on vendace (Coregonus albula) habitat in Bassenthwaite Lake, U.K.

Authors


J. A. Elliott, Algal Modelling Unit, Lake Ecosystem Group, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Lancaster, Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancashire LA1 4AP, U.K. E-mail: alexe@ceh.ac.uk

Summary

1. The long-term suitability of Bassenthwaite Lake as a habitat for vendace (Coregonus albula) was assessed using two models. The first was the phytoplankton model (PROTECH) that provided temperature and phytoplankton biomass outputs that were used to drive a second model of lake oxygen (LOX).

2. Both temperature and oxygen concentrations were used to define the available habitat for the adult vendace, using 18 °C as an upper and 2 mg L−1 as a lower threshold, respectively. The outputs of both models were compared with 4 years of observed data for the purposes of validation and produced good simulations of water temperature, total chlorophyll a and oxygen concentrations in the epilimnion, hypolimnion and at the lake bottom.

3. Using the outputs of a regional climate model (RCM) simulating 20 years of both present and future climate conditions for this part of the United Kingdom, both models were re-run. These data suggest the future climate will cause a mean increase of >2 °C in water temperature, little change in overall phytoplankton biomass and a 10% decline in oxygen concentration.

4. Using the thresholds defined above, the habitat volume will decline greatly under the future climate scenarios, with all of the 20 years simulated having periods of zero habitat volume for >7 consecutive days, primarily caused by high temperature. These results suggest that the long-term viability of the lake as a habitat for this rare fish is extremely low.

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