It is well known that winter can be a stressful season for plants and animals in streams and rivers. It is reasonable to assume that it is the more extreme weather conditions that are the most taxing, but the ecological significance of this is poorly understood.
It is difficult to be a fish when the bottom of the river is covered with ice. Winter image from the river Orkla in Norway. Photo: Knut Alfredsen
The research team, headed by Professor Christer Nilsson at Umeå University, describes how extreme conditions – especially those associated with ice formation and ice break-up – vary over time and affect both the non-living environment and its fish. For example, waterways can fill up with ice and kill all fish that do not manage to flee to backwaters or deeper stretches of quiet water that is not filled with ice. Young fish are especially vulnerable.The researchers also discuss how humans have impacted what happens in streams and rivers in the winter.
Today most models are about the ice-free period. A third conclusion is that in order to be able to manage streams and rivers in a long-term sustainable manner, we need to pay attention to future changes in climate, for example, when we design restoration and conservation measures.“The predictions made about what the winter climate will be like in the future say that there will be more back and forth between thaw and frost, entailing more unstable ice conditions, more rain, and flooding, and ultimately perhaps more challenges to the survival of fish in many waterways,” says Christer Nilsson.
Ingrid Söderbergh | idw
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