Sink or swim? potential for high faunal turnover in Australian rivers under climate change

James, Cassandra S., Reside, April E., VanDerWal, Jeremy, Pearson, Richard G., Burrows, Damien, Capon, Samatha J., Harwood, Thomas D., Hodgson, Lauren, and Waltham, Nathan J. (2017) Sink or swim? potential for high faunal turnover in Australian rivers under climate change. Journal of Biogeography, 44 (3). pp. 489-501.

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Aim: Climate change threatens biodiversity in all ecosystems, and major shifts in species distributions are expected. Freshwater ecosystems are considered particularly vulnerable due to the ectothermic physiology of most freshwater species and their limited habitat extent and capacity to track climate trends. In this study, we examined what broad patterns in freshwater riverine species turnover might be expected under climate change across continental Australia and what are the implications of these patterns for aquatic species and the low aquatic biodiversity of some bioregions?

Location: Continental Australia.

Methods: We built statistical relationships between bioclimatic environments and the occurrence of species of four freshwater taxa (freshwater fish, crayfish, turtles and frogs) and examined trends in projected species turnover for a ‘business as usual’ climate scenario. We used Maxent to model species distributions and present the median projection across 18 global climate models. A recently derived national stream network was used to generate estimates of mean annual river flow and to produce realistic species distributions and migration options by restricting dispersal and migration opportunities usually available to riverine fauna.

Results: High species turnover was driven overwhelmingly by potential local extinctions particularly for stream frogs and crayfish where their current biodiversity is largely confined to higher elevation headwater streams. We predicted high turnover for inland regions of Australia, which are arid and generally support fewer freshwater species.

Main conclusions: Our analysis indicates that under the most severe emissions pathway, projected climate change is likely to cause substantial changes to the composition of faunal assemblages in Australian rivers well before the end of this century. While freshwater systems globally are subject to immediate and pressing threats from anthropogenic land and water use, management interventions addressing these pressures need to be considered within the context of climate change.

Item ID: 47035
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2699
Keywords: Australia, climate change, crayfish, freshwater fish, frogs, Maxent, severe emission scenario, species distribution modelling, turtles
Funders: Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2017 04:27
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310304 Freshwater ecology @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 40%
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