Post-print of: Johnston, AC, Acreman, MC, Dunbar, MJ, Feist, SW, Giacomello, AM, Gozlan, RE, Hinsley, SA, Ibbotson, AT, Jarvie, HP, Jones, JI, Longshaw, M, Maberly, SC, March, TJ, Neal, C, Newman, JR, Nunn, MA, Pickup, RW, Reynard, NS, Sullivan, CA, Sumpter, JP & Post-Post-print of: Williams, RJ 2009, 'The British river of the future: how climate change and human activity might affect two contrasting river ecosystems in England', Science of The Total Environment, vol. 407, no. 17, pp. 4787-4798.
Published version available from:
The possible effects of changing climate on a southern and a north-eastern English river (the Thames and the Yorkshire Ouse, respectively) were examined in relation to water and ecological quality throughout the food web. The CLASSIC hydrological model, driven by output from the Hadley Centre climate model (HadCM3), based on IPCC low and high CO2 emission scenarios for 2080 were used as the basis for the analysis. Compared to current conditions, the CLASSIC model predicted lower flows for both rivers, in all seasons except winter. Such an outcome would lead to longer residence times (by up to a month in the Thames), with nutrient, organic and biological contaminant concentrations elevated by 70–100% pro-rata, assuming sewage treatment effectiveness remains unchanged. Greater opportunities for phytoplankton growth will arise, and this may be significant in the Thames. Warmer winters and milder springs will favour riverine birds and increase the recruitment of many coarse fish species. However, warm, slow-flowing, shallower water would increase the incidence of fish diseases. These changing conditions would make southern UK rivers in general a less favourable habitat for some species of fish, such as the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Accidental or deliberate, introductions of alien macrophytes and fish may change the range of species in the rivers. In some areas, it is possible that a concurrence of different pressures may give rise to the temporary loss of ecosystem services, such as providing acceptable quality water for humans and industry. An increasing demand for water in southern England due to an expanding population, a possibly reduced flow due to climate change, together with the Water Framework Directive obligation to maintain water quality, will put extreme pressure on river ecosystems, such as the Thames.