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Evidence needed to manage freshwater ecosystems in a changing climate

July 28, 2010

A new paper titled: Evidence needed to manage freshwater ecosystems in a changing climate: Turning adaptation principles into practice was released in the Science of the total Environment last week (Science of the Total Environment, Volume 408, Issue 19, September 2010, Pages 4150-4164 .

The paper is the result of the collaboration between 20 researchers from 16 UK organisations.  It examines the scientific basis for adaptively managing vulnerable habitats and species and  asserts that adaptation planning is constrained by:

– uncertainty about evolving climatic and non-climatic pressures,

– difficulties in predicting species- and ecosystem-level responses to these forces, and

– the plasticity of management goals.

This implies that adaptation measures will have greatest acceptance when they deliver multiple benefits, including, but not limited to, the amelioration of climate impacts.

The paper also advocates for  more multi-disciplinary field and model experimentation to test the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of adaptation measures applied at different scales. It highlights the  need for a major collaborative programme to:

– examine natural adaptation to climatic variation in freshwater species;

– identify where existing environmental practice may be insufficient;

– review the fitness of monitoring networks to detect change;

– translate existing knowledge into guidance; and

– implement best practice within existing regulatory frameworks.

The paper quotes some selected European research programmes addressing aspects of climate change and freshwater ecosystem management. Despite BioFresh not yet being quoted in such papers, it is clear that the project outcomes will contribute to fill some of these gaps and particularly the one underlining the need  to build data assets that water researchers and policy makers can rely on for decision-making.

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