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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(3)

Droughts, floods and freshwater ecosystems: evaluating climate change impacts and developing adaptation strategies

Allison Aldous A E , James Fitzsimons B C , Brian Richter D and Leslie Bach A

A The Nature Conservancy, 821 SE 14th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, USA.
B The Nature Conservancy, Suite 3-04, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia.
C School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, 211 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia.
D The Nature Conservancy, 490 Westfield Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901, USA.
E Corresponding author. Email: aaldous@tnc.org

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(3) 223-231 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF09285
Submitted: 9 November 2009  Accepted: 10 May 2010   Published: 18 March 2011

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Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on hydrologic regimes and freshwater ecosystems, and yet few basins have adequate numerical models to guide the development of freshwater climate adaptation strategies. Such strategies can build on existing freshwater conservation activities, and incorporate predicted climate change impacts. We illustrate this concept with three case studies. In the Upper Klamath Basin of the western USA, a shift in land management practices would buffer this landscape from a declining snowpack. In the Murray–Darling Basin of south-eastern Australia, identifying the requirements of flood-dependent natural values would better inform the delivery of environmental water in response to reduced runoff and less water. In the Savannah Basin of the south-eastern USA, dam managers are considering technological and engineering upgrades in response to more severe floods and droughts, which would also improve the implementation of recommended environmental flows. Even though the three case studies are in different landscapes, they all contain significant freshwater biodiversity values. These values are threatened by water allocation problems that will be exacerbated by climate change, and yet all provide opportunities for the development of effective climate adaptation strategies.

Additional keywords: climate adaptation strategies, coupled climate–hydrology models, dam reoperation, environmental flows, groundwater, groundwater-dependent ecosystems, land management, surface water.


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