Climate change and standing freshwaters: informing adaptation strategies for conservation at multiple scales



Climate change will have a major impact on freshwater environments globally. The management of these ecosystems is one of the key challenges currently facing environmental policymakers and producing well-informed climate change adaptation strategies is a priority. Links between climate, hydrology and ecology are poorly understood, and relatively little study has taken place on conservation of standing freshwaters, particularly with respect to landscape context and connectivity in a changing environment. Scotland's lakes (termed lochs in Scotland) contain more than 90% of Great Britain's total freshwater resource. They are distributed across the country, occurring in a wide variety of types and sizes, together providing habitats of international importance for numerous species. There is a pressing need across all geographic scales to conserve these environments in the face of changing water body, catchment and global pressures, including climate change in particular. Here, we introduce a new conceptual framework (ESVRA), designed to inform climate change adaptation strategies for standing freshwaters at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Adaptation actions will be contingent on the nature and scale of the climate changes, the sensitivity of different lake types to change and the resilience of the specific conservation interests involved. As such, potential adaptation actions are situated within current debates in conservation management surrounding priority species and habitats, threats from multiple stressors, invasive non-native species and the potential benefits of catchment-scale management. Following the ESVRA framework, we present an analysis of climate projections for Scotland; discuss potential climate impacts on the physico-chemical, hydromorphological and ecological processes within lakes; offer a spatial risk assessment for the conservation of Scottish lakes; and advance the adaptation discussion, moving from broad adaptation principles to specific adaptation actions protecting the conservation interests of individual lakes.