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Water 2016, 8(12), 566; doi:10.3390/w8120566

Impacts of Climate Change on Riverine Ecosystems: Alterations of Ecologically Relevant Flow Dynamics in the Danube River and Its Major Tributaries

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
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Academic Editor: Kevin Strychar
Received: 25 August 2016 / Revised: 10 November 2016 / Accepted: 16 November 2016 / Published: 2 December 2016
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Abstract

River flow dynamics play an important role for aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Climate change is projected to significantly alter river flow regimes in Europe and worldwide. In this study, we evaluate future river flow alterations in the entire Danube River basin by means of ecologically relevant river flow indicators under different climate warming scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 2.6, RCP 4.5, and RCP 8.5). The process-based watershed model SWIM was applied for 1124 sub-catchments to simulate daily time series of river discharge for the Danube River and its tributaries under future scenario conditions. The derived hydrological data series were then statistically analyzed using eight eco-hydrological indicators to distinguish intra-year variations in the streamflow regime. The results are used to: (a) analyze the possible impacts of climate change on the ecologically relevant flow regime components; and (b) identify regions at the highest risk of climate change-driven flow alterations. Our results indicate that climate change will distinctively alter the recent ecological flow regime of the Danube River and, in particular, the tributaries of the Middle and Lower Danube basin. While for the RCP 2.6 scenario the projected flow alterations might still be considered moderate for many rivers, the impacts might strongly accelerate if global mean temperatures rise more than 2 °C compared to pre-industrial times. Under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 warming scenarios, the recent ecological flow regime might be highly altered, posing a serious threat to river and floodplain ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: river; ecosystem; environmental flows; Danube; Sava; Tisza; climate change; flow regime; impact; biodiversity river; ecosystem; environmental flows; Danube; Sava; Tisza; climate change; flow regime; impact; biodiversity
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Stagl, J.C.; Hattermann, F.F. Impacts of Climate Change on Riverine Ecosystems: Alterations of Ecologically Relevant Flow Dynamics in the Danube River and Its Major Tributaries. Water 2016, 8, 566.

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