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Forecasting the combined effects of urbanization and climate change on stream ecosystems: from impacts to management options
Article first published online: 8 DEC 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 British Ecological Society
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 46, Issue 1, pages 154–163, February 2009
How to Cite
Nelson, K. C., Palmer, M. A., Pizzuto, J. E., Moglen, G. E., Angermeier, P. L., Hilderbrand, R. H., Dettinger, M. and Hayhoe, K. (2009), Forecasting the combined effects of urbanization and climate change on stream ecosystems: from impacts to management options. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 154–163. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01599.x
- Issue published online: 14 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 8 DEC 2008
- Received 30 June 2008; accepted 5 November 2008; Handling Editor: E. J. Milner-Gulland
- multiple stressors;
- fish assemblage;
- headwater stream;
- flow regime;
- temperature regime;
- urban stream syndrome
- 1Streams collect runoff, heat, and sediment from their watersheds, making them highly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances such as urbanization and climate change. Forecasting the effects of these disturbances using process-based models is critical to identifying the form and magnitude of likely impacts. Here, we integrate a new biotic model with four previously developed physical models (downscaled climate projections, stream hydrology, geomorphology, and water temperature) to predict how stream fish growth and reproduction will most probably respond to shifts in climate and urbanization over the next several decades.
- 2The biotic submodel couples dynamics in fish populations and habitat suitability to predict fish assemblage composition, based on readily available biotic information (preferences for habitat, temperature, and food, and characteristics of spawning) and day-to-day variability in stream conditions.
- 3We illustrate the model using Piedmont headwater streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed of the USA, projecting ten scenarios: Baseline (low urbanization; no on-going construction; and present-day climate); one Urbanization scenario (higher impervious surface, lower forest cover, significant construction activity); four future climate change scenarios [Hadley CM3 and Parallel Climate Models under medium-high (A2) and medium-low (B2) emissions scenarios]; and the same four climate change scenarios plus Urbanization.
- 4Urbanization alone depressed growth or reproduction of 8 of 39 species, while climate change alone depressed 22 to 29 species. Almost every recreationally important species (i.e. trouts, basses, sunfishes) and six of the ten currently most common species were predicted to be significantly stressed. The combined effect of climate change and urbanization on adult growth was sometimes large compared to the effect of either stressor alone. Thus, the model predicts considerable change in fish assemblage composition, including loss of diversity.
- 5Synthesis and applications. The interaction of climate change and urban growth may entail significant reconfiguring of headwater streams, including a loss of ecosystem structure and services, which will be more costly than climate change alone. On local scales, stakeholders cannot control climate drivers but they can mitigate stream impacts via careful land use. Therefore, to conserve stream ecosystems, we recommend that proactive measures be taken to insure against species loss or severe population declines. Delays will inevitably exacerbate the impacts of both climate change and urbanization on headwater systems.