Ecological rehabilitation of river ecosystems in a future climate

Speaker: Roland Jansson, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (EMG), Umeå University

There is a need to reconsider the practice of ecological restoration in the light of climate change: Restoration methods, how they are implemented and prioritized as well as evaluated may need to change in the future. I discuss the role of ecological restoration and rehabilitation of riverine ecosystems in a future climate, using examples from my research on boreal river systems. This includes implementing environmental flows to river systems regulated for hydropower production, structural restoration of streams channelized for timber floating, and using scenarios of future run-off to predict the effects on riparian vegetation and project the consequences of implementing environmental flows in a future climate. Ecological restoration may help mitigate against climate change effects, and help adapt riverine ecosystems to new climatic situations. At the same time, there is a risk that restoration practices restore ecosystems to a historical state no longer relevant in the future. At a more general level, the way the success of ecological restoration projects is evaluated should be modified to reflect the non-stationarity of ecosystems.

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Picture from a restoration project at Vindelälven. Photo: Christer Nilsson, Umeå University