Can riparian vegetation shade mitigate the expected rise in stream temperatures due to climate change during heat waves in a human-impacted pre-alpine river?

Trimmel, Heidelinde; Weihs, Philipp; Leidinger, David; Formayer, Herbert; Kalny, Gerda; Melcher, Andreas

Global warming has already affected European rivers and their aquatic biota, and climate models predict an increase of temperature in central Europe over all seasons. We simulated the influence of expected changes in heat wave intensity during the 21st century on water temperatures of a heavily impacted pre-alpine Austrian river and analysed future mitigating effects of riparian vegetation shade on radiant and turbulent energy fluxes using the deterministic Heat Source model. Modelled stream water temperature increased less than 1.5 inline-formulaC within the first half of the century. Until 2100, a more significant increase of around 3 inline-formulaC in minimum, maximum and mean stream temperatures was predicted for a 20-year return period heat event. The result showed clearly that in a highly altered river system riparian vegetation was not able to fully mitigate the predicted temperature rise caused by climate change but would be able to reduce water temperature by 1 to 2 inline-formulaC. The removal of riparian vegetation amplified stream temperature increases. Maximum stream temperatures could increase by more than 4 inline-formulaC even in annual heat events. Such a dramatic water temperature shift of some degrees, especially in summer, would indicate a total shift of aquatic biodiversity. The results demonstrate that effective river restoration and mitigation require re-establishing riparian vegetation and emphasize the importance of land–water interfaces and their ecological functioning in aquatic environments.

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Trimmel, Heidelinde / Weihs, Philipp / Leidinger, David / et al: Can riparian vegetation shade mitigate the expected rise in stream temperatures due to climate change during heat waves in a human-impacted pre-alpine river?. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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