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Abstract Biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems – rivers, lakes and wetlands – is undergoing rapid global decline. Major drivers are land use change, eutrophication, hydrological disturbance, climate change, overexploitation and invasive species. We developed a global model for assessing the dominant human impacts on inland aquatic biodiversity. The system consists of a biodiversity model, named GLOBIO-Aquatic, that is embedded in the IMAGE model framework, i.e. linked to models for demography, economy, land use changes, climate change, nutrient emissions, a global hydrological model and a global map of water bodies. The biodiversity model is based on a recompilation of existing data, thereby scaling-up from local/regional case-studies to global trends. We compared species composition in impacted lakes, rivers and wetlands to that in comparable undisturbed systems. We focussed on broad categories of human-induced pressures that are relevant at the global scale. The drivers currently included are catchment land use changes and nutrient loading affecting water quality, and hydrological disturbance and climate change affecting water quantity. The resulting relative mean abundance of original species is used as indicator for biodiversity intactness. For lakes, we used dominance of harmful algal blooms as an additional indicator. The results show that there is a significant negative relation between biodiversity intactness and these stressors in all types of freshwater ecosystems. In heavily used catchments, standing water bodies would lose about 80% of their biodiversity intactness and running waters about 70%, while severe hydrological disturbance would result in losses of about 80% in running waters and more than 50% in floodplain wetlands. As an illustration, an analysis using the OECD ‘baseline scenario’ shows a considerable decline of the biodiversity intactness in still existing water bodies in 2000, especially in temperate and subtropical regions, and a further decline especially in tropical regions in 2050. Historical loss of wetland areas is not yet included in these results. The model may inform policy makers at the global level in what regions aquatic biodiversity will be affected most and by what causes, and allows for scenario analysis to evaluate policy options.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-114
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Volume48
Issue number0
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Research areas

  • Lakes, Wetlands, Rivers, Land use change, Eutrophication, Hydrological disturbance, Catchment, Scenario analysis, Cyanobacteria, national

ID: 768786