Effects of Climate Change on Freshwater Ecosystems

Only 1% of the earth’s surface is comprised of freshwater ecosystems (WRI 1999). Lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and wetlands are all freshwater environments (WRI 1999). Climate change has several detrimental effects on freshwater ecosystems, such as “increased water temperatures, decreased dissolved oxygen levels, and the increased toxicity of pollutants“ (Ficke et al. 2007). In lakes, ponds or swamps, climate change can aggravate eutrophication, a pollution problem (Ficke et al. 2007). An increase in temperatures of rivers, lakes or streams, could influence viability of various fish species (Ficke et al. 2007). Cold-water species that are unable to tolerate warmer water temperatures may eventually die out. The extinction of several freshwater species will greatly affect food webs in the ecosystem. Climate change also causes sea levels to rise. Rising sea levels may cause saltwater to intrude into freshwater habitats (Gorder 2010). An increase in salinity will kill many freshwater fish species that aren’t accustomed to higher levels of salinity. Drought is also an effect of climate change in freshwater ecosystems that hinders agricultural production and public accessibility to potable water. Climate change will ultimately result in a shortage of freshwater supply, which is essential to all life forms as drinking water (Gorder 2010). Shortage will cause increase in usable water’s selling price, subsequently raising standards of living further, causing socioeconomical problems.


[WRI] World Resources Institute. 1999. [cited 2010 Apr 26]. The decline of freshwater ecosystems. [Internet]. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Available from: http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8391.

Ficke AD, Myrick CA, Hansen LJ. 2007. Potential impacts of global climate change on freshwater fisheries. Potential Impacts of Global Climate Change on Freshwater Fisheries [Internet]. [cited 2010 Apr 26]; 17(4):1. Available from Springerlink: http://www.springerlink.com/content/50576k6256336271/.

Gorder P. 2010 [cited 2010 Apr 26].Climate change could diminish drinking water more than expected. [Internet]. Columbus, Ohio, USA: Ohio State University Research Communications. Available from: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/saltwatr.htm.


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