Human impacts to river temperature and their effects on biological processes: A quantitative synthesis
Land-use change and water resources management increasingly impact stream and river temperatures and therefore aquatic organisms. Efforts at thermal mitigation are expected to grow in future decades. Yet the biological consequences of both human thermal impacts and proposed mitigation options are poorly quantified. This study provides such context for river thermal management in two ways. First, we summarize the full spectrum of human thermal impacts to help thermal managers consider the relative magnitudes of all impacts and mitigation options. Second, we synthesize biological sensitivity to river temperature shifts using thermal performance curves, which relate organism-level biological processes to temperature. This approach supplements the popular use of thermal thresholds by directly estimating the impact of temperature shifts on the rates of key biological processes (e.g., growth). Our results quantify a diverse array of human thermal impacts, revealing that human actions tend to increase more than decrease river temperatures. Our results also provide a practical framework in which to quantify the sensitivity of river organisms to such impacts and related mitigation options. Finally, among the data and studies we synthesized, river organisms appear to be more sensitive to temperature above than below their thermal maxima, and fish are more sensitive to temperature change than invertebrates. © 2011 American Water Resources Association.
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