Prepare River Ecosystems for an Uncertain Future

In January, millions of fish died in Australia’s Murray–Darling Basin as the region experienced some of its driest and hottest weather on record. The heat also caused severe water shortages for people living there. Such harsh conditions will become more common as the world warms.

Rivers around the world are struggling to cope with changing weather patterns. In Germany and Switzerland, a heatwave last year killed thousands of fish and blocked shipping on the River Rhine. California is emerging from a six-year drought1 that restricted water supplies and devastated trees, fish and other aquatic life. Across the US southwest, extended dry spells are destroying many more forests and wetlands.

What should river managers do? They cannot look to tools of old: conventional management techniques that aim to restore ecosystems to their original state.

As the climate warms, we can’t restore waterways to pristine condition, but models can predict potential changes, argue Jonathan D. Tonkin, N. LeRoy Poff and colleagues.

Prepare River Ecosystems for an Uncertain Future

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