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Riparian ecosystems in the 21st century are likely to play a critical role in determining the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change, and in influencing the capacity of these systems to adapt. Some authors have suggested that riparian ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts due to their high levels of exposure and sensitivity to climatic stimuli, and their history of degradation. Others have highlighted the probable resilience of riparian ecosystems to climate change as a result of their evolution under high levels of climatic and environmental variability. We synthesize current knowledge of the vulnerability of riparian ecosystems to climate change by assessing the potential exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of their key components and processes, as well as ecosystem functions, goods and services, to projected global climatic changes. We review key pathways for ecological and human adaptation for the maintenance, restoration and enhancement of riparian ecosystem functions, goods and services and present emerging principles for planned adaptation. Our synthesis suggests that, in the absence of adaptation, riparian ecosystems are likely to be highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. However, given the critical role of riparian ecosystem functions in landscapes, as well as the strong links between riparian ecosystems and human well-being, considerable means, motives and opportunities for strategically planned adaptation to climate change also exist. The need for planned adaptation of and for riparian ecosystems is likely to be strengthened as the importance of many riparian ecosystem functions, goods and services will grow under a changing climate. Consequently, riparian ecosystems are likely to become adaptation ‘hotspots’ as the century unfolds.
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Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st
Century: Hotspots for Climate
Change Adaptation?
Samantha J. Capon,
1
* Lynda E. Chambers,
2
Ralph Mac Nally,
3
Robert J.
Naiman,
4,5
Peter Davies,
5
Nadine Marshall,
6
Jamie Pittock,
7
Michael Reid,
8
Timothy Capon,
9
Michael Douglas,
10
Jane Catford,
11,12
Darren S. Baldwin,
13
Michael Stewardson,
14
Jane Roberts,
15,16
Meg Parsons,
17
and Stephen E.
Williams
18
1
Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Brisbane, Queensland 4111, Australia;
2
Centre for Australian Weather and
Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia;
3
Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Bio-
logical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia;
4
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of
Washington, 355020, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA;
5
Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, University of Western
Australia, Albany, WA 6330, Australia;
6
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia;
7
Crawford School of
Public Policy, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia;
8
School of Behavioural,
Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales 2350, Australia;
9
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences,
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia;
10
NERP Northern Australia Hub and Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge
Research Hub, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia;
11
School of Botany, The University of Mel-
bourne, Melbourne, Victoria 2689, Australia;
12
Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University,
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia;
13
CSIRO Land and Water and the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre,
LaTrobe University, Wodonga, Victoria 3689, Australia;
14
Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Victoria 3689, Australia;
15
Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, New South Wales 2640,
Australia;
16
PO Box 6191, O’Connor, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2602, Australia;
17
School of Population Health, The
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3689, Australia;
18
Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change, School of Marine
& Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
ABSTRACT
Riparian ecosystems in the 21st century are likely
to play a critical role in determining the vulnera-
bility of natural and human systems to climate
change, and in influencing the capacity of these
systems to adapt. Some authors have suggested that
riparian ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to
climate change impacts due to their high levels of
exposure and sensitivity to climatic stimuli, and
their history of degradation. Others have high-
lighted the probable resilience of riparian ecosys-
tems to climate change as a result of their evolution
under high levels of climatic and environmental
variability. We synthesize current knowledge of the
vulnerability of riparian ecosystems to climate
change by assessing the potential exposure, sensi-
tivity, and adaptive capacity of their key compo-
nents and processes, as well as ecosystem functions,
goods and services, to projected global climatic
changes. We review key pathways for ecological
and human adaptation for the maintenance, res-
Received 27 July 2012; accepted 19 February 2013;
published online 13 March 2013
Author Contributions: SC: lead author, conceived study, performed
research, contributed new models, wrote paper. LC: conceived study,
performed research, contributed new models, wrote paper. RM: con-
tributed new models, wrote paper. RN: contributed new models, wrote
paper. PD: contributed new models, wrote paper. NM: performed
research, wrote paper. JP: performed research, contributed new models,
wrote paper. MR: performed research, contributed new models, wrote
paper. TC: contributed new models, wrote paper. MD: performed
research, wrote paper. JC: performed research, wrote paper. DB: per-
formed research, contributed new models, wrote paper. MS: performed
research, wrote paper. JR: performed research, wrote paper. MP: per-
formed research, wrote paper. SW: conceived study, performed research.
*Corresponding author; e-mail: s.capon@griffith.edu.au
Ecosystems (2013) 16: 359–381
DOI: 10.1007/s10021-013-9656-1
Ó2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York
359
toration and enhancement of riparian ecosystem
functions, goods and services and present emerging
principles for planned adaptation. Our synthesis
suggests that, in the absence of adaptation, riparian
ecosystems are likely to be highly vulnerable to
climate change impacts. However, given the critical
role of riparian ecosystem functions in landscapes,
as well as the strong links between riparian eco-
systems and human well-being, considerable
means, motives and opportunities for strategically
planned adaptation to climate change also exist.
The need for planned adaptation of and for riparian
ecosystems is likely to be strengthened as the
importance of many riparian ecosystem functions,
goods and services will grow under a changing
climate. Consequently, riparian ecosystems are
likely to become adaptation ‘hotspots’ as the cen-
tury unfolds.
Key words: adaptive capacity; ecosystem ser-
vices; environmental management; floodplains;
human adaptation; vulnerability; water resources.
INTRODUCTION
Climate change has had, and increasingly will have,
a significant influence on the world’s natural eco-
systems, their species, and the functions, goods and
services that they provide (Hulme 2005). For some
highly vulnerable species and ecosystems, persis-
tence may depend on the success of global mitigation
efforts or on extreme interventions, such as seed
banks or zoos. For many other species and systems,
managed adaptation strategies to reduce their vul-
nerability to climate change and to increase their
capacity to adapt to changing conditions are required
(Hulme 2005). Identifying and prioritizing effective
adaptation options for conservation and natural re-
sources management (for example, through vul-
nerability assessments) has thus become a major
research focus (Palmer and others 2007; Steffen and
others 2009; Hansen and Hoffman 2011).
Riparian ecosystems, defined here in their
broadest sense as those occurring in semi-terrestrial
areas adjacent to water bodies and influenced by
freshwaters (Naiman and others 2005), have been
identified as being particularly susceptible to cli-
mate change impacts, at least partially because they
are among the world’s most transformed and de-
graded ecosystems (Tockner and Stanford 2002;
Rood and others 2008; Perry and others 2012).
However, some authors suggest that riparian eco-
systems may be relatively resistant to climate
change because they have evolved under condi-
tions of high environmental variability and
hydrologic extremes (Seavy and others 2009; Cat-
ford and others 2012). Either way, there is growing
recognition that successful adaptation to climate
change of much aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity,
as well as human enterprise, may depend on
riparian ecosystem functions and their capacity to
adapt, or be adapted, to changing conditions (Pal-
mer and others 2008,2009; Seavy and others 2009;
Davies 2010; Thomson and others 2012).
Here, we suggest that riparian ecosystems will be
hotspots for adaptation to climate change over the
coming century with respect to the autonomous
adaptation of biota and ecosystems across land-
scapes as well as human adaptation responses, both
spontaneous and planned. We make this assertion
based on several key points around which this pa-
per is structured:
1. Riparian ecosystems, in the absence of planned
human adaptation, are likely to be particularly
vulnerable to climate change impacts because of
their relatively high levels of exposure and
sensitivity to changes in climatic stimuli as well
as constraints on their capacity to adapt auton-
omously due to other stressors;
2. Riparian ecosystem functions, goods and ser-
vices are disproportionately abundant with re-
spect to surface area and are highly significant in
landscapes, with many likely to become more
important ecologically and for humans under a
changing climate; and
3. Considerable means and opportunity exist for
planned human adaptation of riparian ecosys-
tems including numerous low-regret options
with the potential for multiple benefits for bio-
diversity and human well-being at local and
landscape scales.
We begin by assessing the relative vulnerability of
riparian ecosystems to climate change impacts in
the absence of planned human adaptation. Rather
than attempting a comprehensive review of pro-
jected impacts of climate change on riparian eco-
systems, this synthesis considers how distinguishing
characteristics of riparian ecosystems affect the
exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of their
key components and processes to projected global
changes. Secondly, we provide an overview of key
riparian ecosystem functions, goods and services
and the mechanisms by which climate change is
likely to affect both the supply of and demand for
360 S. J. Capon and others
these functions and services. Finally, we assess the
capacity for planned human adaptation, with
respect to both riparian ecosystems and their man-
agement, by reviewing potential adaptation path-
ways and the factors influencing uptake and likely
effectiveness. We conclude by presenting some
guiding principles for planned adaptation of ripar-
ian ecosystems that emerge from our synthesis.
VULNERABILITY OF RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEMS
TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Exposure
Vulnerability of riparian ecosystems to climate
change depends largely on the degree of their
exposure to climatic stimuli which, in turn, de-
pends on both regional climate change and climate
variability (Figure 1;Fu
¨ssel and Klein 2006). Most
riparian ecosystems are subject to the CO
2
enrich-
ment and rising air and water temperatures asso-
ciated with anthropogenic climate change, albeit to
varying degrees (IPCC 2007a). Additionally, chan-
ges in precipitation patterns, consistent with global
warming, have been observed for much of the
world in recent decades and further changes are
widely anticipated, despite high levels of uncer-
tainty associated with hydrological projections
(Bates and others 2008). In general, wetter areas
are likely to become wetter and drier areas drier
with mean precipitation expected to increase in
high latitudes and some tropical regions and
decrease in lower mid-latitudes and some sub-
tropical regions (IPCC 2007a). Both the frequency
of heavy precipitation events and the proportion of
annual rainfall falling in intense events are also
likely to increase in most regions (IPCC 2007a;
Bates and others 2008). In alpine areas, riparian
ecosystems may also experience reductions in snow
depth and duration (Vicuna and Dracup 2007),
whereas those in coastal areas are open to intrusion
by marine waters due to sea-level rise and in-
creased storm surge (IPCC 2007a).
Clearly, there is much variation in the degree and
type of climate change and climate variability
experienced by riparian ecosystems at global and
basin-scales, as well as within catchments between
upland and lowland reaches (Palmer and others
2008,2009). Within landscapes, however, riparian
ecosystems can be considered to have relatively
high levels of exposure to changes in climatic
stimuli (for example, rising temperatures) because
they are subject to these directly as well as through
the effects of these changes in the terrestrial and
aquatic environments with which they are con-
nected. Due to their topographic position, riparian
ecosystems also tend to be highly exposed to ex-
treme climatic events, including floods, droughts
and intense storms, which are expected to increase
in frequency and intensity in many regions due to
climate change (IPCC 2007a; Bates and others
2008). Riparian ecosystems are often particularly
Figure 1. Conceptual framework for assessing vulnerability to climate change showing relationships between exposure,
sensitivity and adaptive capacity, and climate change impacts and vulnerability. Dashed lines indicate the effects of human
actions, including the potential for human climate change adaptation and mitigation actions to influence exposure,
sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, both directly and indirectly through their influence on emissions and non-climatic
stressors (adapted from Fu
¨ssel and Klein 2006).
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 361
exposed to damaging winds associated with tropical
cyclones (Turton 2012).
Sensitivity
As a key dimension of vulnerability to climate
change, ‘sensitivity’ refers to the ‘dose–response
relationship’ between a system’s exposure to cli-
mate-related stimuli and the potential for this to
result in impacts, typically in the absence of adap-
tation (Figure 1;Fu
¨ssel and Klein 2006). Riparian
ecosystems can be considered to be highly sensitive
to changes in climatic stimuli because their major
components and processes tend to be strongly
influenced by the climate variables that are most
likely to be altered by anthropogenic climate
change. In particular, hydrologic regimes, generally
considered the ‘master variable’ controlling ripar-
ian ecosystem structure and function (Power and
others 1995; Poff and Zimmerman 2010), are very
sensitive to changes in precipitation and, to a lesser
degree, evapotranspiration, with declines in rainfall
resulting in proportionally greater reductions in
runoff and stream flow (Arnell 1999; Najjar 1999;
Goudie 2006; Jones and others 2006). Similarly,
increases in annual precipitation result in much
greater increases in mean stream flow and pro-
portionately even greater flood discharges (Goudie
2006). Stream flow is also very sensitive to rising
temperatures. In Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin,
for example, recent reductions in annual inflows of
approximately 15% can be attributed solely to a
1°C rise in temperature (Cai and Cowan 2008).
Groundwater hydrology, significant for many
riparian ecosystems, is also highly sensitive to
changes in precipitation, temperature, and evapo-
transpiration. Potential climate change effects
include changes in recharge, discharge, and flow
direction, the overall impacts of which are antici-
pated to be detrimental in the majority of cases
(Dragoni and Sukhiga 2008).
The sensitivity of runoff, stream flow, and flood
discharges to altered rainfall differs considerably
among regions in relation to CO
2
concentrations
and temperature, depending on emission scenarios
(Goudie 2006; Moradkhani and others 2010). Ef-
fects are typically greatest in drier catchments, with
declines in annual river runoff of up to 40–70%
likely in arid and semi-arid catchments in response
to a 1–2°C increase in mean annual temperature
and 10% decrease in precipitation (Shiklomanov
1999; Goudie 2006; Jones and others 2006). In and
downstream of alpine areas, the sensitivity of
riparian hydrologic regimes to climate change is
exacerbated by current and projected declines in
snow depth and season duration, which commonly
lead to reduced spring peak flows and higher
winter flows (Lapp and others 2005; Goudie 2006;
Rood and others 2008). Such effects demonstrate
the sensitivity of flow seasonality, as well as vol-
ume, to climate change. Indeed, in some regions,
shifts in the timing of flow peaks are predicted even
where overall hydrograph shapes are insensitive to
projected climate changes (for example, Scibek and
others 2007).
Fluvial and upland geomorphic processes are also
major determinants of physical and biogeochemical
patterns and processes in riparian ecosystems
(Gregory and others 1991) and are similarly sensi-
tive to projected changes in climate stimuli. In
particular, changes in precipitation are expected to
have important effects on sedimentation (Nearing
2001; Yang and others 2003; Nearing and others
2004) with a potential for dramatic increases in
erosion rates at whole-of-continent scales (Favis-
Mortlock and Guerra 1999; Sun and others 2002;
Nearing and others 2004). Climate change effects
on sediment and flow regimes will lead to changes
in channel form and the fluvial dynamics of rivers
and their riparian zone. Fine-grained alluvial
streams, rather than bedrock or armored channels,
are likely to be most sensitive to such effects
(Goudie 2006). Streams in arid regions are also
especially sensitive to altered precipitation and
runoff and relatively minor climate changes can
induce rapid shifts between incision and aggrada-
tion (Nanson and Tooth 1999; Goudie 2006).
Biogeochemical processes influencing water and
soil quality in riparian ecosystems are sensitive to
changes in climatic stimuli both directly and
indirectly through changes to hydrologic and geo-
morphologic processes. Litter decomposition, for
example, is sensitive to CO
2
enrichment, warming
and changes in soil moisture, although differing
effects of these on microbial activity make it diffi-
cult to predict overall impacts (Perry and others
2012). Rates of release of many solutes (for exam-
ple, nitrate, sulfate, sodium, iron, and so on) from
riparian soils are also sensitive to hydrologic
changes and riparian soils can shift from sinks to
sources of potentially harmful solutes with drier
conditions (Freeman and others 1993).
Riparian biota are likely to be directly affected by
projected climate changes with physiological re-
sponses (for example, altered growth and repro-
duction), behavioral changes, altered phenology,
shifts in species distributions, and disrupted sym-
biotic and trophic interactions widely anticipated if
not already apparent (Steffen and others 2009;
Catford and others 2012,2009; Nilsson and others
362 S. J. Capon and others
2012; Perry and others 2012). Riparian organisms
are particularly sensitive to changes in hydrologic
and fluvial disturbance regimes because these tend
to be the main drivers of life-history processes,
population and community structure and interac-
tions among riparian biota (Naiman and others
2005; Perry and others 2012). The composition and
structure of riparian vegetation, for example, is
usually governed primarily by hydrology and, to a
lesser degree, geomorphology. Individual plants,
populations, and communities can be sensitive to
changes in the timing, duration, depth, frequency,
and rates of rise and fall of surface and ground
waters (Hupp and Osterkamp 1996; Nilsson and
Svedmark 2002). Riparian vegetation can also be
more sensitive to tropical cyclones than that of
upland areas, especially with respect to wind
damage and subsequent weed invasions, with im-
pacts often exacerbated by increased erosion and
reduced water quality following such events (Tur-
ton 2012).
The sensitivity to climatic changes of animals
inhabiting riparian areas, either permanently or
occasionally (that is, for feeding, breeding or ref-
uge), will be affected by changes in habitat struc-
ture wrought by altered hydrology and
geomorphology and resulting changes to riparian
vegetation (Catford and others 2012,2009).
Changes in riparian hydrology, for instance, are
likely to affect animals such as water birds that
breed in riparian areas in response to specific
hydrologic cues (for example, water levels; Kings-
ford and Norman 2002; Chambers and others
2005). Riparian food webs are also sensitive to al-
tered vegetation and faunal assemblages and to
changes in processes of production and decompo-
sition.
Because riparian ecosystems are characterized by
interactions between adjacent terrestrial and aquatic
ecosystems, many of their ecological processes will
be especially sensitive to climate change because
they will be subject to effects both within the riparian
zone and those in the surrounding landscape (Bal-
linger and Lake 2006). Additionally, the capacity of
biota and ecosystem processes to tolerate, resist and
recover from changes to climatic stimuli will be
affected by other, non-climatic stressors (Figure 1).
Riparian ecosystems are highly susceptible to weed
invasions, for example, and infestations of some
alien plants may prevent the re-establishment of
native species following extreme events such as
floods or storms (Richardson and others 2007). The
sensitivity of riparian ecosystem components and
processes to climate change will be particularly
influenced by the many anthropogenic pressures to
which riparian ecosystems are subject. Some major
threats to riparian ecosystems around the world in-
clude altered hydrologic regimes due to river regu-
lation and water extraction, vegetation clearing for
agriculture and other developments, grazing by
livestock, development of human settlements and
infrastructure, pollution and mining (Tockner and
Stanford 2002; Naiman and others 2005). Climate
change is expected to have significant effects on
many human activities associated with such threats,
including construction of more water storages, water
transfers among basins, increased clearing to enable
access, and construction of infrastructure to meet
greater demand for water and mineral resources, all
of which will impact riparian ecosystems. Some CO
2
mitigation measures, such as more plantations for
carbon sequestration and construction of hydro-
power facilities, may further stress riparian ecosys-
tems (for example, Bates and others 2008; Pittock
and Finlayson 2011). At the same time, the sensi-
tivity of riparian ecosystem components and pro-
cesses to these non-climatic threats is likely to grow
as a result of climate change effects (Rood and others
2008). Feedback loops of this kind may amplify hu-
man effects on riparian ecological dynamics and
biodiversity more rapidly in the future, and are likely
to increase the effects of synergies among multiple
stressors (Mac Nally and others 2011).
Adaptive Capacity
Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adjust
to external changes, such as climate change, so that
it moderates, copes with or exploits the conse-
quences of these (Fu
¨ssel and Klein 2006). Auton-
omous adaptation refers to that which ‘does not
constitute a conscious response to climatic stimuli’
(IPCC 2007b) and in the case of ecosystems typi-
cally refers to the capacity of organisms, species,
biological communities, and ecosystems to adapt to
changes in climatic stimuli. Pathways for autono-
mous adaptation (that is, ‘adaptation that does not
constitute a conscious response to climatic stimuli’;
IPCC 2007b) of individual organisms or species
include acclimation, morphological or physiological
plasticity, behavioral change, genetic adaptation
and migration, the outcome of which may be range
contraction, expansion or movement (Palmer and
others 2007,2009). Shifts in interspecific depen-
dencies (for example, changes in mutualisms) or
the composition of assemblages (for example, more
salt-tolerant or fire-retardant species) may be re-
garded as adaptive if resulting novel ecosystems
have greater resistance to climate changes or an
improved capacity to recover from disturbances
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 363
associated with climate change (for example, more
intense fires; Catford and others 2012,2009).
Unlike exposure and sensitivity, adaptive capac-
ity is negatively correlated with vulnerability (Fig-
ure 1). In general, a system’s capacity to cope with
existing climate variability can be interpreted as an
indication of its ability to adapt to climate change in
the future (Fu
¨ssel and Klein 2006). Natural riparian
ecosystems may have relatively high adaptive
capacity overall because they have evolved under,
and are structured by, relatively great environ-
mental variability, much of which is associated with
variation in climatic stimuli. Riparian plants, for
instance, exhibit a wide array of traits that enable
their persistence under variable fluvial disturbance
regimes (Dwire and Kauffman 2003). Such adap-
tations are potential mechanisms for acclimation to
increased frequency and severity of extreme events
in riparian ecosystems due to climate change,
including fires. Additionally, many aquatic and
semi-aquatic riparian plants have morphological
and physiological plasticity (for example, hetero-
phylly or the ability to elongate roots or shoots) that
enable them to respond to water-level fluctuations
(Cronk and Fennessy 2001; Horton and Clark
2001). Many riparian biota may also have relatively
high adaptive capacity because of their high levels
mobility. Diaspores of riparian plants, for example,
often have traits that facilitate their dispersal by
several vectors including wind, water, and animals
(Nilsson and others 1991). High levels of connec-
tivity within and between riparian ecosystems
provide pathways for the movement of propagules
and individuals as climatic conditions shift within
catchments (for example, from lower to upper
reaches with rising temperatures) or, where dis-
persal is facilitated by wind or water birds, between
regions (Raulings and others 2011). The character-
istic heterogeneity of many riparian ecosystems (for
example, Stromberg and others 2007) also increases
the probability that dispersing organisms will find
appropriate habitats for recolonization. Further-
more, riparian biotic assemblages are typically dy-
namic, demonstrating considerable capacity to shift
in composition and structure in response to fluvial
disturbances (for example, Junk and others 1989;
Capon 2003). Autonomous transitions to more fire-
retardant or salt-tolerant vegetation are therefore
possible in riparian areas where climate change
effects include greater fire frequency or elevated
salinity (Nielsen and Brock 2009).
A critical influence on the adaptive capacity of
natural ecosystems with respect to climate change is
exposure and sensitivity to non-climatic threats be-
cause the effects of these may limit the scope of
adaptations to climate change that organisms or
ecosystems might otherwise be able to express.
Riparian ecosystems often are sites of intensive hu-
man activity and have been much transformed and
degraded (Tockner and Stanford 2002). Thus, the
capacity of riparian ecosystems to adapt autono-
mously to climate change is much constrained
(Palmer and others 2008,2009). Altered hydrologic
regimes, fragmentation, and encroachment onto
riparian lands by agriculture and human settlements
all reduce connectivity and heterogeneity of riparian
ecosystems and are likely to aggravate the exposure
and sensitivity of their ecosystem components and
processes to climate change (Palmer and others
2008,2009). The time and space available for
organisms and assemblages to adjust to altered
conditions, either in situ or through migration, may
be significantly reduced due to these other pressures.
Additionally, the rate of potential autonomous eco-
logical adaptation in many cases is likely to be ex-
ceeded by rates of climatic change (Visser 2008).
RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS,GOODS,
AND SERVICES
Riparian ecosystems have a wide range of ecologi-
cal, socioeconomic, and cultural functions (Ta-
ble 1). Many of these functions are important not
only locally but also have considerable influence
on physical, chemical, and biological components
and processes in landscapes, particularly with re-
spect to aquatic ecosystems but also terrestrial and,
in some cases, marine ecosystems (Naiman and
others 2005). At these larger scales, riparian eco-
system functions include the regulation of climate,
water, sediments, nutrients, soils and topography,
and food production and transfer among food webs
(Table 1). These functions involve the regulation of
exchanges of materials and energy between adja-
cent aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems but can also
affect ecosystem components and processes for
considerable distances into upland systems, down-
stream within the catchment, or beyond into
coastal and marine systems or other catchments
(for example, Johnson and others 1999; Helfield
and Naiman 2001). In the case of exchanges facil-
itated by migrating water birds (Raulings and oth-
ers 2011), the geographical distances bounding
such functions may be immense, for example,
intercontinental.
Riparian ecosystems also have significant habitat
functions (de Groot and others 2002), both locally
and in landscapes, and tend to increase the diver-
sity of species pools at regional scales (Sabo and
364 S. J. Capon and others
Table 1. Major Riparian Ecosystem Functions and Their Associated Components and Processes, and Goods and Services
Ecosystem function Ecosystem processes and
components
Ecosystem goods and
services (examples)
Potential mechanisms of climate change effects (examples)
Supply-side Demand-side
Regulation functions
Gas regulation Role in biogeochemical
cycles
Provision of sinks for
potentially harmful
solutes
May switch from sinks
to sources of harmful
solutes with warming
and drying
Climate regulation Influence of riparian can-
opy on climate
Reduction of local tem-
perature
Changes to riparian
canopy will affect lo-
cal temperature re-
gimes
Increased importance due
to global warming
Reduction of in-stream
temperature
Changes to riparian
canopy will affect in-
stream temperature
regimes
Increased importance due
to global warming
Reduction of in-stream
light
Changes to riparian
canopy will affect in-
stream light regimes
Increased importance due
to potential increases in
solar irradiance
Disturbance prevention Dampening of environ-
mental disturbances by
riparian vegetation and
wetlands
Storm protection, for
example, protection
of stream banks from
erosion
Changes in riparian
vegetation will affect
susceptibility to dam-
age from storms
Greater importance due to
increased frequency and
intensity of extreme
precipitation events
Flood mitigation Changes in riparian
vegetation and
topography will
influence flooding
patterns
Greater importance due to
increased frequency and
intensity of extreme
flooding
Water regulation Influence of riparian
topography and vegeta-
tion on regulation of
runoff and river dis-
charge
Drainage and natural
irrigation
Changes in riparian
topography and veg-
etation will affect
runoff patterns,
flooding patterns and
ground water
dynamics
Greater importance due to
increased frequency of
intense precipitation and
runoff events
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 365
Table 1. continued
Ecosystem function Ecosystem processes and
components
Ecosystem goods and
services (examples)
Potential mechanisms of climate change effects (examples)
Supply-side Demand-side
Water supply Influence of riparian veg-
etation and soils on fil-
tering of runoff and river
discharge
Provision of water suit-
able for consumptive
use
Changes in riparian
vegetation, soils and
biogeochemistry will
affect quantity and
quality of stream,
flood and ground
waters
Greater importance due to
increased frequency of
intense precipitation and
runoff events
Soil retention Role of vegetation root
matrix and soil biota on
soil retention
Maintenance of ripar-
ian pastures
Changes in water and
vegetation will alter
capacity of soils to
support pasture
growth
Greater importance due to
increased frequency of
intense precipitation and
runoff events
Prevention of erosion Changes in water and
vegetation will alter
susceptibility of soils
to erosion
Soil formation Role of flooding in erosion
and deposition, organic
matter accumulation,
weathering of substrates,
role of riparian biota in
decomposition
Maintenance of pro-
ductive soils
Changes in water and
vegetation will alter
capacity of soils to
support pasture
growth
May increase in signifi-
cance under drying cli-
mates if surrounding
landscape becomes less
productive
Nutrient regulation Role of riparian soils and
biota in nutrient storage
and recycling
Maintenance of pro-
ductive ecosystems
Changes to riparian soil
and biota will affect
nutrient cycling
Waste treatment Role of riparian vegetation
in removal and break-
down of xenic nutrients
and compounds
Pollution control/
detoxification
Changes to riparian
vegetation, soils and
biogeochemistry may
limit capacity to
breakdown com-
pounds and act as
solute sinks
May increase in signifi-
cance if human adapta-
tion increases water
recycling practices
and/or pollution
366 S. J. Capon and others
Table 1. continued
Ecosystem function Ecosystem processes and
components
Ecosystem goods and
services (examples)
Potential mechanisms of climate change effects (examples)
Supply-side Demand-side
Energy transfer Role of riparian food webs
in energy exchange be-
tween aquatic and ter-
restrial systems
Maintenance of pro-
ductive ecosystems
Energy exchange be-
tween aquatic and
terrestrial systems
will be affected by
changes in riparian
biota and habitat
May increase in signifi-
cance under drying cli-
mates if surrounding
landscape becomes less
productive
Pollination Role of wind, flooding and
riparian biota in dis-
persal of pollen
Pollination of wild and
pasture species,
maintenance of wild
meta-populations,
Pollination will be af-
fected by changes in
riparian biota and
habitat
Increasing importance as
pathways for migration
in response to shifting
climate, increasing
importance for facilitat-
ing potential for genetic
adaptation through gene
flow
Propagule dispersal Role of wind, flooding and
riparian biota in dis-
persal of propagules
Dispersal of wild and
pasture species,
maintenance of egg
and seed banks,
maintenance of wild
meta-populations
Dispersal will be af-
fected by changes in
riparian biota and
habitat
Increasing importance as
pathways for migration
in response to shifting
climate
Biological control Influence of trophic–dy-
namic interactions on
populations
Control of pests and
diseases
Changes in riparian
biota, food webs and
habitat will alter
spread of pests and
diseases
Increasing importance for
control of pathways of
migration in response to
shifting climate
Habitat functions
Refuge function Provision of habitat for
organisms
Maintenance of har-
vested and wild ter-
restrial species
Quality and quantity of
refuge habitat will be
affected by changes in
topography, local cli-
mate, nutrients, soils,
water, biota, food
webs and pests
Increasing importance to
terrestrial species under
warming and drying
climates
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 367
Table 1. continued
Ecosystem function Ecosystem processes and
components
Ecosystem goods and
services (examples)
Potential mechanisms of climate change effects (examples)
Supply-side Demand-side
Nursery function Provision of habitat for
breeding, for example,
water birds, fish
Maintenance of terres-
trial and aquatic spe-
cies
Quality and quantity of
breeding habitat will
be affected by chan-
ges in topography,
local climate, nutri-
ents, soils, water,
biota, food webs and
pests
Increasing importance to
terrestrial and aquatic
species under warming
and drying climates
Corridor function Provision of habitat for
movement of organisms
Maintenance of terres-
trial and aquatic spe-
cies
Movement of organ-
isms through riparian
ecosystems will be
affected by changes in
topography, local cli-
mate, nutrients, soils,
water, biota, food
webs and pests
Increasing importance as
pathways for migration
in response to shifting
climate
Structural function Influence on in-stream
habitats through provi-
sion of structure (over-
hanging roots, canopy,
wood, etc.)
Maintenance of aquatic
species
Riparian influence on
structural aquatic
habitat will be af-
fected by changes to
topography, vegeta-
tion and soils
Increasing importance to
aquatic species under
warming and drying cli-
mates
Production functions
Food Provision of edible re-
sources
Hunting, gathering,
small-scale subsis-
tence farming and
aquaculture
Food production will be
affected by changes to
regulating and habi-
tat functions
May increase in signifi-
cance if surrounding
landscape becomes drier
and less productive
Raw materials Provision of biomass for
human use
Construction and man-
ufacturing
Production of raw
materials will be af-
fected by changes in
regulating and habi-
tat functions and
biota
May increase in signifi-
cance under drying cli-
mates if surrounding
landscape becomes less
productive
Fuel and energy
Fodder and fertilizer
368 S. J. Capon and others
Table 1. continued
Ecosystem function Ecosystem processes and
components
Ecosystem goods and
services (examples)
Potential mechanisms of climate change effects (examples)
Supply-side Demand-side
Genetic resources Provision of genetic mate-
rials
Improved crop resis-
tance to pathogens
and pests
Diversity of genetic re-
sources will change
with changed ripar-
ian biotaGene translocation
Ornamental resources Provision of materials (for
example, biota) with or-
namental use
Resources for crafts,
souvenirs, etc.
Diversity of materials
will be affected by
changes in regulating
functions and biota
May increase in signifi-
cance under drying cli-
mates if surrounding
landscape becomes less
productive
Information functions
Aesthetic information Attractive landscape fea-
tures
Enjoyment of scenery Scenery will be altered
by changes in regu-
lating and habitat
functions especially
those influencing
topography and biota
May increase in signifi-
cance if surrounding
landscape is altered to
become less attractive or
familiar
Recreation Provision of landscape
with recreational use
Camping, fishing, bird-
watching
Recreational utility will
be affected by chan-
ges in climate, topog-
raphy, soil, water,
and biota
May increase in signifi-
cance if surrounding
landscape becomes less
amenable for recreation
Cultural and artistic
information
Provision of natural fea-
tures with cultural value
Use as motive for cul-
tural and artistic
activities
Culturally and spiritu-
ally valuable features
and places may be
altered due to chan-
ges in topography,
vegetation, etc.
May increase in signifi-
cance if surrounding
landscape is significantly
alteredSpiritual and historic
information
Provision of natural fea-
tures with spiritual and
historic value
Use for religious or his-
toric purposes
Science and education Provision of natural fea-
tures with scientific and
educational value
Use for research or
education
Scientific and educa-
tional opportunities
will vary with other
changes
Increased significance for
adaptive learning and
management
Sources: references in text
Potential mechanisms for climate change effects on the supply of ecosystem goods and services and their importance and/or demand are also indicated. N.B. This table is not intended to be exhaustive, nor universally applicable, but rather
provide a framework via which susceptibility of key elements of riparian ecosystems to climate change impacts, and their interactions, can be considered in particular regional settings (adapted from de Groot and others 2002).
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 369
others 2005; Clarke and others 2008). With typi-
cally cooler air temperatures and higher relative
humidity than surrounding uplands (Brosofske and
others 1997; Danehy and Kirpes 2000), riparian
ecosystems provide refuge, breeding, nursery and
feeding habitat, and corridors for movement to
many terrestrial and aquatic organisms (Mac Nally
and others 2000; Fleishman and others 2003).
Riparian ecosystems also influence habitats of
adjacent and downstream aquatic ecosystems by
regulating light, water temperature and material
inputs (for example, sediments, litter, wood; Bunn
and others 1999). In addition, many production
functions (that is, provision of resources) and
information functions (that is, provision of infor-
mation to humans for spiritual enrichment, mental
development and leisure) that are exploited and
valued by humans are provided by riparian eco-
systems (de Groot and others 2002; Table 1).
Riparian ecosystem functions contribute to the
provision of ecosystem goods and services that are
disproportionately abundant, with respect to sur-
face area, than those supplied by many, if not most
other, ecosystem types (Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment 2005; Ten Brink 2009). The diversity
and high value of riparian ecosystem functions,
goods and services are supported by two key
characteristics of (undisturbed) riparian ecosys-
tems: (1) high spatial connectivity, internally and
in relation to adjacent ecosystems and (2) high
levels of environmental heterogeneity. These
attributes both arise from the topographic position
of riparian ecosystems and the central role played
by variable fluvial disturbance regimes. The
capacity of riparian ecosystems to provide many
ecosystem functions, goods and services in land-
scapes reflects levels of lateral (for example, be-
tween rivers and their floodplains), longitudinal
(that is, between upper and lower reaches), and
vertical (that is, between subsurface and surface
waters) connectivity, all of which facilitate and
regulate the exchange of materials, energy and
biota through and within riparian ecosystems
(Ballinger and Lake 2006). The high degree of
heterogeneity characteristic of riparian ecosystems
(for example, Stromberg and others 2007) is sig-
nificant for the provision of habitat functions and
the ecosystem goods and services associated with
these (Table 1).
Given their dependence on ecosystem compo-
nents and processes, many riparian ecosystem
functions that are important at local and landscape
scales can be considered sensitive to climate change
(Table 1). The two key characteristics supporting
the capacity of riparian ecosystems to provide
functions of importance in landscapes (that is,
connectivity and heterogeneity) are particularly
susceptible to climate change effects. Levels of lat-
eral, longitudinal, and vertical connectivity be-
tween aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, critical to
many regulating functions provided by riparian
ecosystems, will be altered directly by changes in
precipitation and hydrology and their effects on
riparian ecosystem components and processes.
Habitat functions with landscape-scale significance
are also sensitive to climate change due to altered
connectivity. Changes in riparian vegetation
structure may alter the suitability of riparian eco-
systems as refuge or breeding habitat for terrestrial
fauna or affect the capacity of riparian zones to
provide corridors for movement of biota between
upper and lower reaches of the catchment or vice
versa. Aquatic ecosystems will be affected by
changes in riparian vegetation that alter the regu-
lation of in-stream light and temperature and the
input of sediment, nutrients, and pollutants (for
example, Davies 2010).
Climate-change-induced changes in fluvial and
other disturbance regimes (for example, fire, tropi-
cal cyclones, and so) also have the potential to alter
the physical, chemical, and biological heterogeneity
of riparian ecosystems. Under a drying climate, and
especially where drought becomes more prevalent,
examples from other aquatic ecosystems suggest
that homogenization is a probable outcome (Lake
and others 2010). Diminishment of channels and a
proclivity for simple, single-channel stream mor-
phology are likely to result from reductions in flow
(Ashmore and Church 2001). If the variability of
flooding regimes decreases (for example, where
overall flood frequency is reduced and flow regimes
become dominated by frequent, large, and intense
events), the characteristic patchiness of many
riparian ecosystem components, such as soil,
nutrients, litter, and vegetation, may also decline
because heterogeneity amongst these components
tends to be driven primarily by variable patterns of
flooding and drying (Stromberg and others 2007).
Conversely, increases in the temporal variability of
precipitation and runoff anticipated in higher lati-
tudes and some tropical regions, may lead to greater
disturbance-driven heterogeneity in some riparian
ecosystem components and processes. Such an
outcome may have significant implications for biota
dependent on relatively predictable hydrologic
events (for example, Junk and others 1989).
Effects of climate change on the provision of
goods and services by riparian ecosystems are likely
to result from changes to the ecosystem compo-
nents, processes and functions with which they are
370 S. J. Capon and others
associated, and complex feedback loops among
these (Table 1). Although the direction and mag-
nitude of these effects will vary spatially, depending
on exposure to climate change and the sensitivity
of local riparian ecosystem components and pro-
cesses, negative effects on the supply of ecosystem
goods and services associated with freshwater sys-
tems are widely anticipated in the absence of
adaptation (for example, Gleick 2003; Bates and
others 2008; Dragoni and Sukhiga 2008; Palmer
and others 2008;Vo
¨ro
¨smarty and others 2010). In
regions where declines in precipitation and runoff
are projected, there are clear risks to the capacity of
riparian ecosystems to supply the many important
ecosystem goods and services that are shaped by
hydrologic connectivity (Table 1). In regions where
increased precipitation and runoff are projected,
such riparian ecosystem goods and services also
face risks due to increased variability in precipita-
tion and runoff and shifts in the seasonal timing of
flows (Bates and others 2008).
Changes to the role and significance of riparian
ecosystem functions, as well as human demand for
riparian ecosystem goods and services, are also
probable outcomes of climate change. In many
cases, riparian ecosystem functions, goods, and
services can be expected to become more impor-
tant, particularly at a landscape scale (Table 1).
Rising temperatures in aquatic and terrestrial eco-
systems, for example, increase the importance of
the role of riparian vegetation in providing thermal
refuges for biota (Davies 2010). Similarly, the
provision of corridors for the movement of biota
may become increasingly crucial as organisms seek
pathways for migration in response to shifting cli-
matic conditions. With respect to goods and ser-
vices provided to human systems, demand for
potable water is likely to intensify under drying
climates (Bates and others 2008). Additionally, the
protection afforded by riparian vegetation from
effects associated with storms and floods (for
example, mitigation of erosion) will be even more
important where such events increase in frequency
and intensity.
PATHWAYS FOR PLANNED ADAPTATION OF
RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEMS
Human adaptation to climate change can be
autonomous or planned, proactive or reactive, and
can involve physical, on-the-ground actions and a
range of socio-economic, political, or cultural
changes, collectively referred to here as ‘gover-
nance’. Goals of human adaptation, which may be
explicit or implicit, typically are to reduce exposure
or minimize sensitivity to climate change or to
increase adaptive capacity, or some combination of
these (Table 2). Drivers for human adaptation
concern the minimization of risks associated with
changing climatic conditions, especially the fre-
quency and severity of extreme events, or to capi-
talize on opportunities these provide (Fu
¨ssell
2007). Adaptation measures that address only so-
cio-economic risks or opportunities can be mal-
adaptive for natural ecosystems and biodiversity
(Hulme 2005), reinforcing the need for planned,
proactive adaptation of conservation and natural
resources management practices. Many such
adaptation approaches have been implemented and
proposed (for example, Steffen and others 2009;
Hansen and Hoffman 2011) that broadly encom-
pass: (1) adaptation of existing management ap-
proaches; (2) hard adaptation measures; (3) retreat;
(4) ecological engineering; and (5) a range of gov-
ernance approaches. Each is summarized here with
respect to riparian ecosystems (Table 2).
Adaptation of Existing Management
Approaches
Many existing approaches to riparian management
can be seen as adaptive if conducted in a frame-
work of risk and uncertainty. Management of non-
climatic threats (for example, pollution control,
flow restoration, riparian fencing, and so on) can
reduce the vulnerability of ecosystem components
and processes to climate change and simulta-
neously build adaptive capacity (Table 2).
Restoration activities (for example, riparian re-
vegetation) are critical for reducing sensitivity and
building adaptive capacity, particularly where res-
toration targets concern the protection, restitution
or enhancement of riparian ecosystem functions
and services such as temperature regulation of in-
stream habitats (Davies 2010; Seavy and others
2009). Under the uncertain and transformational
conditions imposed by climate change, riparian
restoration might be particularly adaptive if, rather
than driven by targets tied to antecedent reference
conditions, restoration goals are more ‘open-
ended’, emphasizing minimal levels of intervention
and allowing for a range of future trajectories of
ecological change that account for autogenic (for
example, succession) and allogenic processes (for
example, propagule dispersal; Hughes and others
2012). Prioritization of investments made in threat
management and restoration should account for
risks to capital, including infrastructure and social
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 371
Table 2. Key Options for Planned Adaptation for the Maintenance, Restoration and Enhancement of Riparian Ecosystem Components, Processes,
Functions, Goods and Services
Adaptation
option
Target(s) Adaptation goal Potential for
multiple benefits
Potential for
perverse outcomes
Irreversibility Opportunity costs
Reduce
exposure
Minimize
sensitivity
Increase
adaptive
capacity
Adaptation of existing management approaches
Management of
existing stress-
ors in climate
change risk
framework
Management tar-
get(s)
Y Y Y High Low Low Low
Riparian restora-
tion, for exam-
ple, re-
vegetation
Vegetation,
whole ecosys-
tem
Y Y Y High Low Low Moderate
Expansion of
protected area
network
Whole ecosystem,
landscape
N Y Y High Low Moderate Moderate
Hard adaptation approaches
Construction of
new structures,
for example,
barrages, sea
walls, weirs
Fluvial processes
and associated
goods and ser-
vices
Y Y N Low–moderate High High Moderate–high
Construction of
new channel
bank/bed
armoring
Fluvial processes
and associated
goods and ser-
vices
Y Y N Low–moderate High High Moderate–high
Meso- or micro-
climate man-
agement infra-
structure, for
example, sprin-
kler systems
Local climate Y Y N Low–moderate Moderate Low–moderate Low–moderate
Artificial habitats,
for example,
roosting struc-
tures
Specific taxa N Y Y Moderate Moderate Low–moderate Low–moderate
372 S. J. Capon and others
Table 2. continued
Adaptation
option
Target(s) Adaptation goal Potential for
multiple benefits
Potential for
perverse outcomes
Irreversibility Opportunity costs
Reduce
exposure
Minimize
sensitivity
Increase
adaptive
capacity
Retrofitting of
existing struc-
tures to in-
crease connec-
tivity or habitat
functions
Specific taxa, bio-
tic community
N Y Y High Moderate Moderate Low–moderate
Adaptation of
management of
existing struc-
tures in climate
change risk
framework
Management tar-
get(s)
Y Y Y Moderate–high Low–high Low Low
Retreat
Removal of exist-
ing structures
Whole ecosystem,
landscape, eco-
system goods
and services
N Y Y High Moderate Moderate–high Moderate
Prevention or
minimization of
development
Whole ecosystem,
landscape, eco-
system goods
and services
N Y Y High Low Low Moderate–high
Ecological engineering
Managed intro-
duction of spe-
cies or
genotypes sui-
ted to new or
predicted fu-
ture conditions
Biotic commu-
nity, whole
ecosystem, eco-
system goods
and services
Y Y Y Moderate–high Moderate–high Moderate–high Moderate–high
Over-restoration
of riparian veg-
etation
Vegetation,
whole ecosys-
tem, landscape
Y Y Y High Moderate Moderate–high Moderate
Species transloca-
tion and
‘banks’
Specific taxa Y Y N Low Moderate–high Moderate–high Moderate–high
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 373
Table 2. continued
Adaptation
option
Target(s) Adaptation goal Potential for
multiple benefits
Potential for
perverse outcomes
Irreversibility Opportunity costs
Reduce
exposure
Minimize
sensitivity
Increase
adaptive
capacity
Governance
Education and
communication
on riparian
ecosystem
functions,
goods and ser-
vices
Human commu-
nity, land and
water policy
makers and
managers, deci-
sion-makers
N Y Y Moderate–high Low Low Low
Improved social
networks
involving
information
access
Human commu-
nity
Y Y Y Moderate–high Low Low Low
Changes to prop-
erty rights, for
example, land
tenure, water
rights, etc.
Human commu-
nity
Y Y Y High Moderate High Moderate–high
Adaptive man-
agement prac-
tices, including
information
gathering and
interpretation
in climate
change risk
framework
Management tar-
get(s)
Y Y Y High Low Low Low
For each adaptation option, key management targets and adaptation goals with respect to reducing exposure and/or sensitivity to climate changes and increasing adaptive capacity are identified. The potential for adaptation options to have
effects beyond the intended target(s) is also suggested, both in terms of positive (that is, multiple benefits) and negative consequences (that is, perverse outcomes). The final columns indicate probable levels of irreversibility of adaptation
options, referring to the ease of their removal (for example, physically, legally and/or economically) once implemented, and opportunity costs, defined here as the costs associated with the options sacrificed in choosing that particular option
(for example, the existing or potential alternative benefits that have been lost by implementing the selected adaptation option).
374 S. J. Capon and others
capital, from exposure to climate change (for
example, sea-level rise).
Protected areas may become relatively more
important in the context of climate change adap-
tation to reduce sensitivity and build adaptive
capacity of ecosystems and biodiversity (Steffen
and others 2009; Hansen and Hoffman 2011). A
focus on the protection of existing and potential
climate refuges, or ecosystems known to be resis-
tant to extreme climatic events, is especially adap-
tive. Landscape-level planning is likely to be
effective for protected area networks, including
corridors and prioritization of off-reserve conser-
vation measures (for example, Steffen and others
2009; Wilby and others 2010). More novel, trans-
formative approaches may involve some degree of
spatial or temporal flexibility in protected area
status (for example, gazetting reserves in locations
identified as likely to be significant in the future;
Fuller and others 2010). Given the structural and
functional significance of riparian ecosystems, their
incorporation into protected-area networks may
have many benefits for biodiversity. Protection of
remaining free-flowing streams and their riparian
ecosystems under ‘wild’ or ‘heritage rivers’ pro-
grams, for instance, may have many benefits for
autonomous ecological adaptation at a landscape
scale (Palmer and others 2007; Pittock and Finlay-
son 2011).
Hard Adaptation Approaches
Hard approaches to adaptation involve the use of
physical infrastructure to control or minimize a
system’s exposure and sensitivity to climate change
(Table 2). Hard measures for riparian ecosystems
can include the construction of barrages, sea walls,
weirs and armoring (Pittock and Lankford 2010).
Such measures are often intended to protect eco-
system goods and services (for example, water re-
sources) or human settlements and infrastructure,
in which case they are designed to replace natural
ecosystem services (for example, flood protection)
that are thought to be inadequate under actual or
projected climatic conditions. Some hard ap-
proaches explicitly address ecological objectives.
Engineering interventions such as water delivery
channels and regulating structures that aim to use
less water to conserve more riparian biodiversity
are being implemented in some places including
Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (Pittock and
others 2012). Use of infrastructure to adjust local
meso- or microclimates (for example, sprinkler
systems or shade cloth to lower extreme tempera-
tures) or the introduction of artificial habitats (for
example, roosting structures) are other hard ap-
proaches.
Hard approaches to climate-change adaptation
seek to ‘hold the line’ rather than to facilitate
autonomous adaptation. Hard-engineering mea-
sures risk failure when modest thresholds are ex-
ceeded (for example, breaching of levee banks) and
can be maladaptive at larger scales. They may result
in a wide range of unintended and perverse con-
sequences (for example, redirection of erosive
outcomes) that may be difficult to reverse and that
may be associated with high opportunity costs
(Barnett and O’Neill 2010; Nelson 2010). Where
hard-engineering measures are employed, an
adaptive approach might entail periodic review of
works (for example, through relicensing) to enable
regular appraisal of costs and benefits and identi-
fication of necessary remedial actions (Pittock and
Hartmann 2011). The renovation of infrastructure
required to keep it safe under a changing climate
provides an opportunity to retrofit technology to
reduce environmental effects (for example, by
introducing habitat diversity to hard surfaces or
using fish-ladders to increase connectivity; Pittock
and Hartmann 2011). The management and oper-
ation of hard-engineering structures such as dams
can be adapted to provide greater ecological bene-
fits such as the allocation of environmental flow
releases or dilution flows.
Retreat
Retreat involves the partial or complete removal of
hard-engineering structures. A retreat strategy aims
to facilitate autonomous ecological adaptation by
providing space and time for ecosystem compo-
nents and processes to respond to climate change
and to reduce their sensitivity to these by removing
other stressors associated with the perverse effects
of existing infrastructure (Table 2). Two examples
relevant here are the restoration of floodplains to
provide room to safely manage flood peaks, along
with many other co-benefits (Pittock 2009), and
the removal of redundant or deteriorating dams to
increase connectivity in rivers and riparian eco-
systems (Stanley and Doyle 2003).
Ecological Engineering
A wide range of ecological engineering approaches
have been proposed as adaptation measures to cli-
mate change, many of which have relevance to
riparian ecosystems. These include the managed
introduction of species or genotypes more suited to
altered conditions, either from ex situ populations
or from genetically modified stock (for example,
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 375
Grady and others 2011;Sgro
`and others 2011).
These strategies build the adaptive capacity of
populations or increase the resilience of biological
communities to climate change locally (Steffen and
others 2009). Ecological engineering approaches
may enhance ecosystem functions (for example,
through the ‘over restoration’ of riparian vegeta-
tion to increase the provision of shade to in-stream
habitats; Davies 2010). Such approaches seek to
accommodate and direct change whereas hard-
engineering approaches usually intend to prevent
or minimize change (Table 2). More extreme ex
situ conservation actions (for example, species
translocation and species banks) may be required to
conserve species or ecosystems with requirements
beyond the limits of less interventionalist adapta-
tion (Steffen and others 2009). Planned species
translocations may be more effective for conserving
species with limited dispersal capabilities than ap-
proaches that aim to facilitate migration by
increasing connectivity (Hulme 2005).
Governance
Governance adaptation strategies are concerned
with directing human responses to climate change
including managed or planned responses as well as
autonomous responses (that is, spontaneous adap-
tation triggered by ecological, market or welfare
changes and not constituting a conscious response
to climatic stimuli; IPCC 2001). Education and
communication strategies to engender public and
political support for adaptation are central to these
approaches (for example, Steffen and others 2009).
With respect to riparian ecosystems, promoting an
increased awareness of the significance of the
ecosystem functions, goods and services they pro-
vide is fundamental (Table 2).
To survive, prosper, and remain sustainable un-
der a changing climate, individual land-holders
that are dependent on riparian ecosystem goods
and services (for example, graziers, farmers, and
fishers) need to adapt to changes in riparian eco-
systems. Several factors can influence the extent to
which such adaptation occurs including a range of
motivating factors and barriers to adaptation
(Campbell and Stafford-Smith 2000; Ford and
others 2006; Leonard and Pelling 2010). Social
networks play an important role in motivating
individuals to participate in adaptation processes
(Marshall and others 2007; Guerrero and others
2010). Individual adaptive capacity is significantly
correlated with the extent to which landholders are
both formally and informally networked (Marshall
and others 2007; Marshall 2010). Farmers, fishers,
or graziers that are well connected to formal sour-
ces of information (for example, extension officers,
industry representatives, researchers, or other
government officials) are more likely to have the
capacity to adapt. Networks engender interest in
adapting and provide opportunities to develop
more positive perceptions of risks associated with
adaptation and the necessary skills to change and
emotional support to undertake change.
From an institutional perspective, changes to
property rights regimes are likely to be particularly
important for riparian ecosystems, both for mini-
mizing existing stressors and for building ecosystem
resilience. Water licenses, land zoning, and tenure
for conservation are core considerations (Pannell
2008). Economic approaches (for example, flexible
water markets or incentive systems) can promote
more efficient, equitable, and sustainable use and
distribution of critical resources (Gleick 2003).
Changes to the organizational structure of institu-
tions involving the distribution of centralized con-
trol may be similarly adaptive, with regional and
local institutions (for example, river basin or wa-
tershed catchment management groups) being
important for facilitating adaptive management of
riparian ecosystems (Gleick 2003; Pittock 2009).
Greater integration across sectors and collaboration
among organizations in planning and management
will be vital, particularly with respect to land use
and development planning at a basin or watershed
scale (Palmer and others 2008). A shift in the focus
of management from ‘controlling’ to ‘learning’
through the adoption of a strategic adaptive man-
agement approach, is widely acknowledged as
critical for gaining adaptive capacity amongst socio-
ecological systems (Pahl-Wostl 2007; Kingsford and
others 2011).
Capacity for Planned Adaptation
Effective planned adaptation for riparian ecosys-
tems is likely to be favored by several factors other
than a relatively high capacity for autonomous
ecological adaptation (sensu Fu
¨ssell 2007). There
are strong existing social and political drivers for
the protection of riparian ecosystem functions,
goods, and services, particularly in relation to water
resources, but also for recreational, cultural, aes-
thetic, and other information functions (Table 1).
Conflicts around such issues, exacerbated by high
levels of exposure and sensitivity of riparian eco-
systems to climate change, have created an
imperative for action (Palmer and others 2007,
2009). The risks associated with climate change
present an opportunity to manage such conflicts
376 S. J. Capon and others
using approaches that might not have been socially
or politically acceptable in the past (for example,
retreat approaches, flexible water markets, or ret-
rofitting of engineering structures; Pittock and
Hartmann 2011; Perry and others 2012). Increasing
recognition of the importance of riparian ecosystem
functions, goods, and services under a changing
climate promotes an awareness of the benefits of
prioritizing riparian zones as foci for adaptation in
landscapes (for example, Palmer and others 2009;
Seavy and others 2009; Davies 2010).
The means for planning, implementing, and
maintaining managed adaptation strategies for the
protection, restoration, and enhancement of ripar-
ian ecosystem components, processes, and func-
tions are relatively well established due to the
concentration of human activities in riparian areas
and their dependence on riparian ecosystem goods
and services. The presence of water resources
infrastructure can provide an opportunity to con-
duct ecological triage with respect to the allocation
of scarce flows during prolonged droughts. Riparian
ecosystems are a major focus for conservation and
restoration throughout the world (Bernhardt and
others 2005; Brooks and Lake 2007) and many
institutions and social networks are explicitly con-
cerned with riparian management issues. The
challenge of climate change adaptation is for these
existing arrangements to become more integrative,
responsive, and flexible and so avoid path-depen-
dency and perverse outcomes (Pittock 2009).
Many options for planned adaptation of and for
riparian ecosystems can be considered no-regret or
low-regret options, most with benefits across mul-
tiple sectors and scales (Fu
¨ssell 2007; Hallegatte
2009). Excluding cattle from riparian zones has
direct and indirect benefits for biodiversity and can
have an important influence on riparian ecosystem
functions such as the efficiency with which nitro-
gen is diverted from upper soil layers into the
atmosphere rather than the stream (Walker and
others 2002). Restoration of riparian ecosystems
can be more cost effective than reducing nutrient
pollution for suppressing river phytoplankton
blooms (Hutchins and others 2010).
Guiding Principles for Planned
Adaptation of Riparian Ecosystems to
Climate Change
There is no ‘one size fits all’ prescription for plan-
ned adaptation of riparian ecosystems and the
choice of effective adaptation strategies will depend
on many climatic, biophysical, cultural, socio-eco-
nomic, historic, and political factors (Fu
¨ssell 2007).
Adaptation actions are undertaken by many actors,
across diverse sectors and at several scales, with a
broad spectrum of objectives and targets. Adapta-
tion actions are rarely conducted in isolation and
comprise part of a broader strategy involving hard
and soft measures. Given the significance of ripar-
ian ecosystem functions, goods and services and
their relationship to environmental connectivity
and heterogeneity, some guiding principles for
adaptation decision making emerge that are likely
to improve cost-effectiveness and minimize mal-
adaptation risks (sensu Fu
¨ssell 2007; Hallegatte
2009).
1. Adaptation planning should consider all riparian
ecosystem functions, goods and services and
involve all stakeholders, not just direct con-
sumers or managers of water (for example,
Gleick 2003).
2. The overall goal of planned adaptation of riparian
ecosystems should be to build adaptive capacity
and to facilitate integrated autonomous adapta-
tion of natural and human systems so as to reduce
the risk of failure and perverse effects (for exam-
ple, Hulme 2005). Specific riparian ecosystem
components and processes with high and multi-
faceted values that are identified as being partic-
ularly vulnerable to climate change may require
the application of more immediate, interventional
strategies (for example, species translocations).
3. Adaptation planning must be underpinned by
effective systems for gathering and interpreting
information to inform vulnerability and risk
assessments to prioritize how, where and when
to act (for example, triggers for ratcheting up
levels of intervention; Palmer and others 2009).
4. Although many adaptation actions are con-
ducted at small scales, effective adaptation
planning for riparian ecosystems needs to be
conducted in a landscape context, with consid-
eration of catchment processes, and prioritiza-
tion for restoration given to the most vulnerable
riparian areas and those that promote connec-
tivity (for example, Palmer and others 2007,
2009; Davies 2010).
5. Adaptation planning should prioritize ‘no- or
low-regret’ measures with clear and multiple
benefits even in the absence of further climate
change, particularly those that enhance con-
nectivity and maintain heterogeneity of riparian
ecosystems (for example, management of exist-
ing stressors, restoration and retro-fitting of
engineered structures).
6. Reversible measures (that is, actions that are
easy to stop, remove or retrofit) should be given
Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 377
priority and irreversible actions, or those likely
to create path-dependency, avoided or treated
with caution. Allowing development in riparian
zones is likely to be difficult to retreat from in
the future, socio-economically and politically,
even if certain thresholds are reached, and may
encourage an expectation of ever more extreme
hard-engineering measures.
7. Construction and management of hard-adapta-
tion actions should be planned in the context of
large, overly pessimistic security margins with
periodic reviews (for example, through reli-
censing) and short-time horizons where possible
(Hallegatte 2009).
8. Soft measures, especially education and com-
munication, should be incorporated into plan-
ned adaptation strategies because successful
complex adaptive systems are characterized by
distributed control and self-organization (for
example, Gleick 2003; Pahl-Wostl 2007).
CONCLUSION
High levels of exposure and sensitivity to direct and
indirect effects of climate change suggest that, in
the absence of adaptation, riparian ecosystems may
be very susceptible to climate change impacts. De-
spite substantial regional variation in climate
change and its effects on riparian ecosystems, it is
likely that in most cases these impacts will alter
overall ecosystem functions and compromise the
supply of goods and services used by humans. The
increasing importance of riparian ecosystem func-
tions and growing demand for these goods and
services due to climate change provide significant
socio-economic and political impetus for human
adaptation of and for riparian ecosystems. Consid-
erable means and opportunities for effective hu-
man adaptation actions exist because of the
concentration of human activities and institutions
in and around riparian zones. Given the high po-
tential for autonomous adaptation of riparian biota,
riparian ecosystems, as integrated socio-ecological
systems, should therefore have a relatively high
overall adaptive capacity. Arguably, the greatest
threat to riparian ecosystems in the 21st century,
and the main component of their vulnerability to
climate change, is the implementation of irrevers-
ible approaches to adaptation that favor a limited
range of ecosystem components and processes and
have a high potential for perverse outcomes. Cli-
mate change presents a crisis from which arises an
opportunity to correct situations in which such
imbalances in riparian management have occurred
in the past.
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Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century 381
... Habitat degradation, flow modification and species invasions have altered riparian vegetation causing shifts in community composition, abundance, functional diversity, and structure (Kominoski et al., 2013;Tonkin et al., 2018;Stella and Bendix, 2019). These changes may impact multiple ecosystem functions and a range of provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services, which riparian vegetation provides at disproportionally high levels relative to its surface area (Capon et al., 2013;Riis et al., 2020). Therefore, it is critical to understand the sensitivity of riparian ecosystem functioning and service supply to ongoing environmental change processes, namely climate and land cover change (Stromberg et al., 2012;Capon et al., 2013;Kominoski et al., 2013). ...
... These changes may impact multiple ecosystem functions and a range of provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services, which riparian vegetation provides at disproportionally high levels relative to its surface area (Capon et al., 2013;Riis et al., 2020). Therefore, it is critical to understand the sensitivity of riparian ecosystem functioning and service supply to ongoing environmental change processes, namely climate and land cover change (Stromberg et al., 2012;Capon et al., 2013;Kominoski et al., 2013). ...
... Our synthesis of the literature and our results support the hypothesis that riparian response and effect traits present high overlap and correlation, and consequently riparian communities are likely to propagate the impact of environmental change to ecosystem functioning. This finding is in line with previous work that concluded that riparian ecosystems are highly sensitive to climate change and that services are likely to be affected (Capon et al., 2013). Our results also support the hypothesis that precipitationrelated variables are the main drivers of functional structure, that leaf area is among the most responsive traits, and that regulation services are among the most sensitive. ...
Article
Environmental changes and biodiversity loss have emphasized the need to understand how communities affect ecosystem functioning and services. In riparian ecosystems, integrative, generalizable, broad-scale models of ecosystem functioning are still required to fulfill this need. However, few studies have explored the links between functional traits, ecosystem functions, and the services of riparian vegetation. Here we adapt the response-effect trait framework to link drivers, traits, ecosystem functions, and services in riparian ecosystems and assess ecosystem functioning sensitivity to environmental changes. The response-effect trait framework distinguishes between traits related to responses to the environment (response traits) and effects on ecosystem functioning (effect traits). The framework predicts that if response and effect traits are tightly linked, shifts in environmental drivers may alter communities' traits and ecosystem functioning. We adapted the response-effect trait framework for riparian plant communities and used it to assess the overlap between response and effect traits. We tested for correlation among traits identified in the framework and for community functional responses to climatic, topographic, soil, and land cover factors using riparian plant communities along a Temperate-Mediterranean climate gradient in North Portugal. We found a high overlap between response and effect traits, with seven out of thirteen traits identified as both response and effect. Additionally, we found trait linkages in four groups of positively correlated community mean traits. Precipitation and aridity were the most predictive drivers of community functional structure, and life form and leaf area were the most responsive traits. Overall, our findings suggest riparian plant communities are likely to propagate the effects of environmental changes to ecosystem functioning and services, affecting several regulation ecosystem services. This work highlights the sensitivity of riparian ecosystems to environmental changes and how it can affect ecosystem services. Similar functional approaches can be useful for adaptive ecosystem management to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services.
... iparian ecosystem fluxes are a function of the pulsations of the water cycle mainly controlled by climate and anthropogenic perturbations. The increasing pressure on these ecosystems for provision of goods and services in the 21 st century and beyond coupled with increasing sensitivity to climate change poses a threat to their sustainability (Capon et al., 2013, Maxwell et al., 2016. Isolated evidence in the literature is suggestive of a likelihood of acquired resilience of these systems to climate change due to exposure to extreme conditions of environmental variability (Capon et al., 2013). ...
... The increasing pressure on these ecosystems for provision of goods and services in the 21 st century and beyond coupled with increasing sensitivity to climate change poses a threat to their sustainability (Capon et al., 2013, Maxwell et al., 2016. Isolated evidence in the literature is suggestive of a likelihood of acquired resilience of these systems to climate change due to exposure to extreme conditions of environmental variability (Capon et al., 2013). There is consensus among scholars that management adaptation and mitigation strategies are critical in the quest to reduce vulnerability and enhance capacity for adaptation to changing environmental and extreme hydrological conditions (Hulme, 2005, Palmer et al., 2007and Steffen et al., 2009). ...
Article
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Riparian ecosystems are considered hotspots of carbon and nitrogen transformations. These biochemical transformations are driven by anthropogenic activities in the immediate riverine water catchments. The anthropogenic activities may include and not limited to extraction of goods such as agricultural products, wood products, honey, plant based pharmaceutical products, livestock products, firewood, water and grass for thatching homesteads. Riparian ecosystems also provide important tangible and intangible ecosystem services comprising spiritual and aesthetic functions, pollination, ecosystem detoxification functions, carbon and nitrogen sequestration and CO2 sinks for amelioration of climate change impacts among others. These ecosystems are increasingly threatened by degradation attributed to land use changes. Human perturbations such as crop farming on riparian land, overgrazing and population pressure on land resources influence degradation of riparian ecosystems, with profound effects on biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods. Evidence from the literature indicates that although there is a general understanding regarding the response of terrestrial and wetland ecosystems to human perturbations, there is a dearth of information on the response of African riparian ecosystems to ecologic and socio-economic impacts.
... Riparian ecosystem management is an effective tool to enhance ecosystem services and climate adaptation (Capon et al. 2013;Seavy et al. 2009). According to survey results, most managers believe that their province's riparian corridors and ecosystems are healthy and functional, while only 1.45 percent have no idea. ...
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Forests in and around the cities are becoming crucial in climate adaptation as the severity and frequency of heat waves, and urban heat islands are estimated to increase in the coming decades. As the local forestry authority, the forest district manager's role in establishing and managing forested green spaces in and around the cities is essential. The study is based on a land cover analysis, in selected provinces of Türkiye, for a period of three decades. We compared the responses of district forest managers to understand their awareness and perception of urban green areas and related climate change issues. The survey was sent to all district forest managers of the State Forest Service (GDF) and responded to by 69 from 28 provinces. The major land cover maps used were explicitly developed for land cover analysis by the GDF with temporal points of 1990, 2000, and 2015. To calculate the urban forest cover in the city centers, we used the city limit delineation shapefiles produced by the EU Copernicus program. We also employed the land consumption rate/population growth rate metric to reveal and discuss the provinces' land and forest cover changes. The results showed that forest district managers were aware of the general condition of the forests in their provinces. Still, there was a considerable inconsistency between actual land use changes (i.e., deforestation) and their responses. The study also revealed that the forest managers were aware of the increasing influence of climate change issues but were not knowledgeable enough to establish the connection between their tasks and climate change. It has been concluded that the national forestry policy should prioritize the urban-forest interaction and develop the capacities of district forest managers to improve the efficiency of climate policies on a regional scale.
... Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Coolabah and Black Box) are keystone elements of their landscapes and are responsible for a range of ecosystem services including providing habitat and refuge, sequestering carbon, and assisting in the stabilisation of riverbanks (Abernethy & Rutherfurd, 2001;Capon et al., 2013;Doody & Benyon, 2011). Riverine forests occupy large areas of the MDB and support a diverse range of biodiversity including many species of reptiles, mammals and birds (Rogers & Ralph, 2010). ...
... Connectivity models are especially useful for the study of large mammals (particularly carnivores), birds, reptiles, and amphibians (Correa Ayram et al. 2016;Wood et al. 2022). Also, they can be useful to explore the connectivity in habitats that are particularly vulnerable to anthropic pressures, such as riparian ones (Capon et al. 2013). ...
Article
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Assessing landscape connectivity allows defining the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes the movement of a species between resource patches. In this phase of climate change and biodiversity crisis, maintaining landscape connectivity by restoring and protecting connecting areas and corridors is a key strategy to ensure the survival of many species. The Eurasian otter ( Lutra lutra ) is a freshwater top predator that is slowly recovering after a dramatic decline occurred in central and southern Europe in the last century. To assess the chances of otter recolonization of the western Alps, we analyzed environmental connectivity by applying electrical circuit theory to an expert-based resistance surface using the Circuitscape software. The study area included southeastern France, northwestern Italy, and Switzerland. We produced a cumulative current flow map and a gap analysis was also conducted to highlight the “conservation gaps” for optimal corridors. The results revealed that the orography of the landscape was the main factor influencing the quantity and quality of the pathways in the western Alpine landscapes. As main corridors were concentrated on valley bottoms, human pressure could severely diminish animal movement. Despite this, some heavily populated areas showed high connectivity values. Some important pathways did not fall within protected areas, potentially hindering otter dispersal and highlighting the need to expand the system of protected areas in the Alpine arc. Recolonization of Alpine territories by otters can therefore only occur if connectivity and environmental suitability combine to ensure the animals' survival over time.
... RBSs provide multifunctional services including reduction of soil erosion and stabilization of stream banks due to their extensive root network that capture surface runoff and hold soil particles together, water quality enhancement by filtering pollutants from non-point sources and maintaining biodiversity by providing wildlife habitat (Thevathasan and Gordon 2004;Fortier et al. 2010). Further, there is high agreement on the feasibility of RBSs to mitigate climate change by sequestering a significant amount of atmospheric C in their soils where decomposition (as indicated by soil respiration) is slower due to high soil water content, and in their biomass as a result of high primary production (Hazlett et al. 2005;Fortier et al. 2010;Udawatta and Jose 2011;Capon et al. 2013;Marty et al. 2015;Oelbermann and Raimbault 2015;Dybala et al. 2019;Baskerville et al. 2021aBaskerville et al. , 2021b. RBSs therefore, are an opportunity to better achieve the goals underpinning the two billion tree planting program by the Federal Government of Canada (Zhongming et al. 2021) by capturing significant quantities of global atmospheric CO 2 and storing same in various terrestrial pools. ...
Article
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Riparian buffer systems (RBSs) can sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide into terrestrial carbon (C) pools. C stocks and C sequestration potential of diverse RBSs are not adequately reported. This study, therefore, quantified: (a) C stocks in various RBSs and (b) system-level C sequestration potentials (SLCSP) [SLCSP= ΔSOC + Biomass C Pools] in southern Ontario, Canada. Results showed significant differences (p < 0.05) in system-level C stocks between tree buffers (765.8 Mg C ha-1) and grass buffers (291.7 Mg C ha-1) and between natural forest buffers (935.9 Mg C ha-1) and rehabilitated buffers (595.6 Mg C ha-1), but no difference (p > 0.05) between coniferous buffers (722.4 Mg C ha-1) and deciduous buffers (809.1 Mg C ha-1) were recorded. Tree buffers had higher SLCSP (633.5 Mg C ha-1) than grass buffers (126.7 Mg C ha-1). Natural forest buffers had higher SLCSP (806.7 Mg C ha 1) than rehabilitated buffers (460.3 Mg C ha-1). There was no difference (p > 0.05) in SLCSP between coniferous buffers (615.0 Mg C ha-1) and deciduous buffers (652.1 Mg C ha-1). Results from this study confirm that the establishment of RBSs within agricultural watersheds can significantly contribute to create new terrestrial C sinks. RÉSUMÉ Les bandes riveraines boisés (BRB) peuvent séquestrer le dioxyde de carbone atmosphérique dans des réservoirs ter-restres de carbone (C). Les stocks de carbone et le potentiel de séquestration de différents BRB ne sont pas adéquatement répertoriés. Cette étude, en conséquence, a permis de quantifier : (a) les stocks de C pour différents BRB et (b) le potentiel de séquestration du carbone des bandes (PSCB) localisées dans le sud de l'Ontario au Canada. Les résultats ont démontré une différence significative (p < 0,05) au niveau des stocks de C retrouvés dans des bandes riveraines boisées (765,7 Mg C ha-1) et des bandes herbacées (291,7 Mg C ha-1), ainsi que pour des bandes riveraines naturellement boisées (935,9 Mg C ha-1) et des bandes reboisées (595,6 Mg C ha-1), mais aucune différence (p > 0,05) entre les bandes résineuses (722,4 Mg C ha-1) et les bandes feuillues (809,1 Mg C ha-1) n'a été enregistrée. Les bandes boisées ont affiché un PSCB plus élevé (633,5 Mg C ha-1) que les bandes herbacées (126,9 Mg C ha-1). Les bandes naturellement boisées ont démontré un PSCB plus élevé (806,7 Mg C ha-1) que les bandes reboisées (460,3 Mg C ha-1). Aucune différence n'a été relevée (p > 0,05) au niveau des PSCB des bandes résineuses (615,0 Mg C ha-1) et des bandes feuillues (652,0 Mg C ha-1). Les résul-tats de cette étude confirment que la création de BRB dans les écosystèmes agricoles peut contribuer significativement à la mise en place de nouveaux réservoirs terrestres de C. Mots clés : carbone de la biomasse aérienne et souterraine, agroforesterie, atténuation des changements climatiques, bandes herbacées, bandes naturellement boisées, réservoirs terrestres de carbone, séquestration du carbone par les bandes riveraines
... RBSs provide multifunctional services including reduction of soil erosion and stabilization of stream banks due to their extensive root network that capture surface runoff and hold soil particles together, water quality enhancement by filtering pollutants from non-point sources and maintaining biodiversity by providing wildlife habitat (Thevathasan and Gordon 2004;Fortier et al. 2010). Further, there is high agreement on the feasibility of RBSs to mitigate climate change by sequestering a significant amount of atmospheric C in their soils where decomposition (as indicated by soil respiration) is slower due to high soil water content, and in their biomass as a result of high primary production (Hazlett et al. 2005;Fortier et al. 2010;Udawatta and Jose 2011;Capon et al. 2013;Marty et al. 2015;Oelbermann and Raimbault 2015;Dybala et al. 2019;Baskerville et al. 2021aBaskerville et al. , 2021b. RBSs therefore, are an opportunity to better achieve the goals underpinning the two billion tree planting program by the Federal Government of Canada (Zhongming et al. 2021) by capturing significant quantities of global atmospheric CO 2 and storing same in various terrestrial pools. ...
Article
Full-text available
Riparian buffer systems (RBSs) can sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide into terrestrial carbon (C) pools. C stocks and C sequestration potential of diverse RBSs are not adequately reported. This study, therefore, quantified: (a) C stocks in various RBSs and (b) system-level C sequestration potentials (SLCSP) [SLCSP= ΔSOC + Biomass C Pools] in southern Ontario, Canada. Results showed significant differences (p < 0.05) in system-level C stocks between tree buffers (765.8 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) and grass buffers (291.7 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) and between natural forest buffers (935.9 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) and rehabilitated buffers (595.6 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ), but no difference (p > 0.05) between coniferous buffers (722.4 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) and deciduous buffers (809.1 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) were recorded. Tree buffers had higher SLCSP (633.5 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) than grass buffers (126.7 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ). Natural forest buffers had higher SLCSP (806.7 Mg C ha ¹ ) than rehabilitated buffers (460.3 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ). There was no difference (p > 0.05) in SLCSP between coniferous buffers (615.0 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ) and deciduous buffers (652.1 Mg C ha ⁻¹ ). Results from this study confirm that the establishment of RBSs within agricultural watersheds can significantly contribute to create new terrestrial C sinks.
... Erosion de la biodiversité, réchauffement climatique, pression anthropique, fragmentation des habitats, pollutions : les changements globaux n'épargnent pas lesécosystèmes riverains (Capon et al., 2013;. Ces milieux constituent pourtant un enjeuécologique majeur pour l'avenir, en raison des nombreux servicesécosystémiques qu'ils fournissent. ...
Thesis
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Les écosystèmes riverains constituent un enjeu écologique majeur par les nombreux services écosystémiques qu’ils fournissent à travers le globe. Pour créer ou encourager des projets de préservation et de restauration écologiques, une caractérisation de ces milieux est nécessaire. Une prémisse à cette caractérisation est l’évaluation de la diversité structurelle et biologique de ces milieux qui définit leur fonctionnalité. Cette étude se focalise sur la modélisation de la diversité structurelle de ces écosystèmes. Pour cela, le développement continu de la télédétection peut jouer un rôle important. La technologie Lidar permet une visualisation et un traitement en trois dimensions du milieu. Cependant son coût élevé et son utilisation à échelle locale produit un déséquilibre dans la couverture des contextes biogéographiques existants et l'accessibilité au Lidar reste situationnelle. À l’inverse, la disponibilité en données satellitaires permet une couverture globale avec des résolutions spatiales et temporelles fines. Dans ce contexte, s’inscrivent les questions de recherches de ce travail : - Dans quelle mesure les données satellitaires peuvent-elles capter la variabilité de la structure 3D des milieux riverains extraite à partir des données Lidar ? - Quelle est l’influence du contexte biogéographique dans la captation de la structure 3D des milieux riverains et quelle est la variabilité de captation inter-contexte observée ?Pour répondre à ces deux questions, 424 milieux riverains provenant de 14 écorégions différentes ont été échantillonnés. A partir de ces échantillons, une matrice de référence d’indicateurs issus du Lidar 3D a été construite ainsi que quatre matrices d’indicateurs issus de divers capteurs et algorithmes satellitaires (indicateurs spectraux, texture, saisonnalité et radar). Ces matrices reflètent la diversité de l’imagerie spatiale disponible en accès libre et gratuit pour les opérateurs. La réalisation d’analyses de redondance (RDA) a pour objectif de capter la variabilité de la matrice d’indicateurs Lidar à partir des matrices issues des satellites pour répondre aux questions avancées. Les résultats expriment entre 15 % et 30 % de variabilité de la matrice Lidar 3D captée lorsque l'ensemble des milieux riverains est considéré. Ils sont supérieurs à 50 % dans tous les cas lorsque l'analyse de redondance est réalisée pour chaque contexte biogéographique. Dans cette seconde situation, certaines combinaisons de contexte et d'indicateurs mènent à 81 % de captation. Les meilleurs résultats sont obtenus à partie des indicateurs de saisonnalité. Cependant, ils possèdent également la plus grande variance inter-contexte. Les indicateurs de texture captent moins la variabilité du Lidar 3D, mais sont plus robustes aux changements de contexte. Les écorégions connaissant moins d’amplitude de saisonnalité (forêts sempervirentes / déserts) sont associées à de moins bonnes performances. La variation des résultats des RDA par écorégion selon les capteurs et les algorithmes utilisés témoigne de leur complémentarité.
Article
Protected areas can be impacted by the presence and proliferation of feral species. Effective management of feral species requires reliable tools to monitor their population size and ecological impacts. Here, we used drone‐based image analysis to assess evidence of feral horses and horse‐specific ecological impacts on alpine riparian habitat. Valleys with low (0), medium (1–16) and high (>16) horse abundances were chosen for drone imagery analysis based on independent aerial counts of horses. Data collection trips were carried out pre‐ and post‐2019/2020 wildfires, which unexpectedly burnt valleys with low horse presence. Drone‐based RGB orthomosaic imagery was sufficient to identify seven indicators of horse presence and determine the severity of feral horse impacts. Despite the impact of fire, drone‐derived classifications were able to accurately detect a gradient of horse impacts, showing a significant difference in indicators from low presence valleys compared with medium and high presence valleys, which did not differ significantly from each other. The significance of differences between valleys reveals that regions routinely inhabited by feral horses will display significant environmental impacts. Our results clearly indicated significant differences between valleys with low horse presence compared with either medium or high horse presence regions (0.01 for differences between both low and medium and low and high horse presence). This was evident both before and after the 2019/2020 fires, suggesting that wildfires did not significantly impact horse populations or distribution in the sampled region. Overall, it was evident that feral horses have a clear and definable impact on alpine riparian vegetation, and drone surveying can be used to routinely monitor potential spread and the outcome of management actions. Protected areas can be impacted by feral species, and effective means of detection are necessary. Here, we find drones to be a useful tool for the detection of feral horse impacts in a vulnerable alpine riparian ecosystem. Horse impacts were significant in regions of medium and high horse presence, both before and after significant bushfires in the region of study.
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Understanding population connectivity and its effect on patterns of adaptation and plasticity is important for development of climate adaptation strategies to manage species under a changing climate. Local adaptation is a balance between selection pressure and gene flow and provides species with fitness benefits under current conditions. Management strategies to respond to predicted shifts in climate may be able to leverage local adaptation to assist with species persistence. In this study we examine the genomic diversity, gene flow and associations between genomic and environmental variation in Taxandria linearifolia across its distribution in the Warren River Catchment. Gene flow was restricted between populations in the drier hotter upper catchment compared to those residing in the cooler wetter regions of the catchment, potentially limiting the flow of genes adapted to predicted future climates. Using two separate methods to search for candidate loci, we found the highest number of correlations between loci and the environmental variable of mean moisture content of the coldest quarter, supporting the hypothesis that floodplain species are linked with water availability. These research findings indicate that species restricted to wet environments and having traits facilitating high gene flow, can show signals of adaptation when gene flow is disrupted, and populations are isolated. This development of adaptation in isolated populations makes assisted migration of dry adapted genotypes to other populations an effective strategy for facilitating long term persistence under changing climates.
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An increasing amount of information is being collected on the ecological and socio-economic value of goods and services provided by natural and semi-natural ecosystems. However, much of this information appears scattered throughout a disciplinary academic literature, unpublished government agency reports, and across the World Wide Web. In addition, data on ecosystem goods and services often appears at incompatible scales of analysis and is classified differently by different authors. In order to make comparative ecological economic analysis possible, a standardized framework for the comprehensive assessment of ecosystem functions, goods and services is needed. In response to this challenge, this paper presents a conceptual framework and typology for describing, classifying and valuing ecosystem functions, goods and services in a clear and consistent manner. In the following analysis, a classification is given for the fullest possible range of 23 ecosystem functions that provide a much larger number of goods and services. In the second part of the paper, a checklist and matrix is provided, linking these ecosystem functions to the main ecological, socio–cultural and economic valuation methods.
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Abstract JUNK, W. J., P. B. BAYLEY, AND R. E. SPARKS, 1989. The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain systems, p. 110-127. In D. P. Dodge [ed.] Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium. Can. Spec. Publ. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 106. The principal driving force responsible for the existence, productivity, and interactions of the major biota in river—floodplain systems is the flood pulse. A spectrum of geomorphological and hydrological conditions produces flood pulses, which range from unpredictable to predictable and from short to long duration. Short and generally unpredictable pulses occur in low-order streams or heavily modified systems with floodplains that have been leveed and drained by man. Because low-order stream pulses are brief and unpredictable, organisms have limited adaptations for directly utilizing the aquatic/terrestrial transition zone (ATTZ), although aquatic organisms benefit indirectly from transport of resources into the lotic environment. Conversely, a predictable pulse of long duration engenders organismic • adaptations and strategies that efficiently utilize attributes of the ATTZ. This pulse is coupled with a dynamic edge effect, which extends a "moving littoral" throughout the ATTZ. The moving littoral prevents prolonged stagnation and allows rapid recycling of organic matter and nutrients, thereby resulting in high productivity. Primary production associated with the ATTZ is much higher than that of permanent water bodies in unmodified systems. Fish yields and production are strongly related to the extent of accessible floodplain, whereas the main river is used as a migration route by most of the fishes. In temperate regions, light and/or temperature variations may modify the effects of the pulse, and anthropogenic influences on the flood pulse or floodplain frequently limit production. A local floodplain, however, can develop by sedimentation in a river stretch modified by a low head dam. Borders of slowly flowing rivers turn into floodplain habitats, becoming separated from the main channel by levées. The flood pulse is a "batch" process and is distinct from concepts that emphasize the continuous processes in flowing water environments, such as the river continuum concept. Flooclplains are distinct because they do not depend on upstream processing inefficiencies of organic matter, although their nutrient pool is influenced by periodic lateral exchange of water and sediments with the main channel. The pulse concept is distinct because the position of a floodplain within the river network is not a primary determinant of the processes that occur. The pulse concept requires an approach other than the traditional limnological paradigms used in lotic or lentic systems. Résumé JUNK, W. J., P. B. BAYLEY, AND R. E. SPARKS. 1989. The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain systems, p. 110-127. In D. P. Dodge [cd.] Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium. Can. Spec. Publ. Fish. Aquat. Sci . 106. Les inondations occasionnées par la crue des eaux dans les systèmes cours d'eau-plaines inondables constituent le principal facteur qui détermine la nature et la productivité du biote dominant de même que les interactions existant entre les organismes biotiques et entre ceux-ci et leur environnement. Ces crues passagères, dont la durée et la prévisibilité sont variables, sont produites par un ensemble de facteurs géomorphologiques et hydrologiques. Les crues de courte durée, généralement imprévisibles, surviennent dans les réseaux hydrographiques peu ramifiées ou dans les réseaux qui ont connu des transformations importantes suite à l'endiguement et au drainage des plaines inondables par l'homme. Comme les crues survenant dans les réseaux hydrographiques d'ordre inférieur sont brèves et imprévisibles, les adaptations des organismes vivants sont limitées en ce qui a trait à l'exploitation des ressources de la zone de transition existant entre le milieu aquatique et le milieu terrestre (ATTZ), bien que les organismes aquatiques profitent indirectement des éléments transportés dans le milieu lotique. Inversement, une crue prévisible de longue durée favorise le développement d'adaptations et de stratégies qui permettent aux organismes d'exploiter efficacement 1 'ATTZ. Une telle crue s'accompagne d'un effet de bordure dynamique qui fait en sorte que l'ATTZ devient un « littoral mobile'<. Dans ces circonstances, il n'y a pas de stagnation prolongée et le recyclage de la matière organique et des substances nutritives se fait rapidement, ce qui donne lieu à une productivité élevée. La production primaire dans l'ATTZ est beaucoup plus élevée que celle des masses d'eau permanentes dans les réseaux hydrographiques non modifiés. Le rendement et la production de poissons sont étroitement reliés à l'étendue de la plaine inondable, tandis que le cours normal de la rivière est utilisé comme voie de migration par la plupart des poissons.
Technical Report
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Available at: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/technical-papers/climate-change-water-en.pdf
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Anadromous Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) transport marine-derived nitrogen (MDN) to the rivers in which they reproduce. Isotopic analyses indicate that trees and shrubs near spawning streams derive ∼22-24% of their foliar nitrogen (N) from spawning salmon. As a consequence of this nutrient subsidy, growth rates are significantly increased in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) near spawning streams. As riparian forests affect the quality of instream habitat through shading, sediment and nutrient filtration, and production of large woody debris (LWD), this fertilization process serves not only to enhance riparian production, but may also act as a positive feedback mechanism by which salmon-borne nutrients improve spawning and rearing habitat for subsequent salmon generations and maintain the long-term productivity Of river corridors along the Pacific coast of North America.
Book
Australia's unique biodiversity is under threat from a rapidly changing climate. The effects of climate change are already discernible at all levels of biodiversity – genes, species, communities and ecosystems. Many of Australia's most valued and iconic natural areas – the Great Barrier Reef, south-western Australia, the Kakadu wetlands and the Australian Alps – are among the most vulnerable. But much more is at stake than saving iconic species or ecosystems. Australia's biodiversity is fundamental to the country's national identity, economy and quality of life. In the face of uncertainty about specific climate scenarios, ecological and management principles provide a sound basis for maximising opportunities for species to adapt, communities to reorganise and ecosystems to transform while maintaining basic functions critical to human society. This innovative approach to biodiversity conservation under a changing climate leads to new challenges for management, policy development and institutional design. This book explores these challenges, building on a detailed analysis of the interactions between a changing climate and Australia's rich but threatened biodiversity. Australia's Biodiversity and Climate Change is an important reference for policy makers, researchers, educators, students, journalists, environmental and conservation NGOs, NRM managers, and private landholders with an interest in biodiversity conservation in a rapidly changing world.
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