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Geomorphic responses of fluvial systems to climate change: A habitat perspective

January 25, 2022

Fluvial systems provide a variety of habitats that support thousands of species including many that are threatened or endangered. Moreover, these habitats, which range from aquatic and riparian to floodplain, are important for the variety of ecosystem services they provide. In addition to water temperature and streamflow change, geomorphic change is important and warrants consideration as one of the several potential threats to these habitats posed by climate change. The geomorphic response of fluvial systems to global warming in temperate environments, for example, caused by an increase in the frequency and magnitude of floods, is important because geomorphology is a primary determinant of habitat availability and quality. Possible geomorphic responses include increased erosion and (or) deposition in the river channel, riparian zone, and floodplain with associated habitat implications. Geomorphic changes caused by global warming can be beneficial (e.g., increased habitat complexity) or detrimental (e.g., mortality caused by scour or burial) to biota. The ability of a species to respond to and survive disturbances, including geomorphic changes, will depend on the nature of the disturbances and the sensitivity and adaptive capabilities of the species. Post-flood recovery often is rapid; however, for certain species (e.g., periphyton, macroinvertebrates), changes in community composition may persist. Increased flood frequency, sediment mobility, and associated geomorphic changes potentially will result in more frequent and persistent changes in habitat and community composition in the affected fluvial systems.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Geomorphic responses of fluvial systems to climate change: A habitat perspective
DOI 10.1002/rra.3938
Authors Kyle E. Juracek, Faith A. Fitzpatrick
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title River Research and Applications
Series Number
Index ID 70228870
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Kansas Water Science Center