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The Effects of Climate Change on Rivers

Joe Dykema, Nolan Kriegel, Auburn Jimenez, Chase Kahn, and Jake Johnson
Macalester College St. Paul, MN
Introduction
Climate change is redefining earths natural landscape by
altering air and water temperature, runoff of water,
biodiversity, changes in precipitation. All of these factors
play a role in how rivers will be affected by climate
change. Streams will be affected differently by where they
are located and what their surrounding climate already is.
With temperatures expected to rise 1-8 degrees Celsius
by 2050, climate change will cause a varied amount of
effects on rivers.

Species Diversity

Ganges River

With the increase of temperature, species diversity will decrease as cold water species are outcompeted by better adapted warm water species.

Optimum habitat for most species in temperate rivers will shift northward toward colder waters.

This leads to disruption in food webs and upsets the balance of the ecosystem.

Earlier peak discharge levels resulting from increased winter precipitation, disrupts natural
reproductive cycles.

Species with high flow and flood tolerance may out-compete others that could previously exist
prior to climate change.

Two top fish predators in the St. Croix are the Smallmouth bass and the Northern pike, both these fish
influence warmer waters on the way, the Smallmouth bass who favors warmer water may be able to out
compete the Northern pike that prefers cooler waters.
The Ganges River is primarily fed from the Himalayan glaciers which are predicted to be entirely melted by
2035, reduced river flow will depress the dissolved oxygen content and create an anoxic environment
reducing fish and macroinvertebrate species.
St. Croix River

http://www.travelphoto.net/a-photo-aday/wordpress/2005/04/23/ganges-riverbefore-sunrise/

Economics
With a change in biodiversity, many rivers may lose some
of their economic value. . With climate change affecting
temperatures all over the world, states could face less
income generated by fewer cold water species.
In the state of Colorado, 800 million dollars are generated
by sport fishing and employ over 11,000 jobs. Most of this
money is generated by the cold water species the trout.

-Describes increasing temperatures in the


last half of the 20th century
http://www.processtrends.com/pg_global_warmin
g.htm

Air/Water Temperature
Rising air temperatures are correlated to the increase in
CO2 in the atmosphere, which are predicted to raise water
temperatures 3-4 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years.
Atmospheric CO2 has spiked nearly 100 ppm since the
1800s from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution due
in large part to the burning of fossil fuels.
Increasing air temperatures are correlated to rising water
temperatures and have begun to force snow-melt earlier in
the year in the St. Croix River.
Increasing water temperatures affect freshwater species
more than marine species due to smaller bodies of water.
The Ganges River dolphin have increased mortality rate
due to warmer water temperatures.
Increasing temperatures also alter stream metabolism,
nutrient cycling and dissolved oxygen concentrations

http://www.rivers.gov/wsr-st-croixlower.html

Precipitation/Runoff
The warmer temperatures speed up the precipitation cycle. Overland precipitation increases in temperate
climates and decreases in semi-arid regions.
Rivers in the North will receive more precipitation in the winter due to warmer temperatures. This will cause
even more runoff and carry away even more soil from areas that could already have a topsoil deficiency.
Heavier runoff and snow-melt will alter the structure of the river by limiting how much sunlight can reach the
bottom due to more water laden with sand. Heavier runoff causes chemicals like Nitrogen and Phosphorus to
enter the river systems. These chemicals could enter the St. Croix from surrounding agricultural plots and
increase productivity to unhealthy levels.
Rainfall over the Ganges River has increased dramatically and is expected to go up about 3-7 times in the next
couple decades which will lead to more frequent and catastrophic floods.
The Ganges River has widened in many places since 1975 due to increased erosion, which has also decreased
water clarity and amplified a reduction in river productivity

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/waterlevels/streams/stcr
oix.html

Sources

Ghosh, S. K., and A. G. Ponniah. "Fresh Water Fish Habitat Science and
Management in India." Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 4.4 (2001)
Pilgrim, Fang and Stefan "Stream temperature correlations with air temperatures in
Minnesota: implications for climate warming" (1998)
http://www.cms.int/publications/pdf/climate_change_leaflet_cms_zsl.pdf
Kaushal "Rising stream and river temperatures in the United States" (2010)
Mondal, M. Shahjahan, and Saleh A. Wasimi. "Evaluation of Risk-Related
Performance in Water Management for the Ganges Delta of Bangladesh." Journal of
Water Resources Planning & Management 133.2 (2007)