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Volume 22, issue 1 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 437-461, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 18 Jan 2018

Research article | 18 Jan 2018

Can riparian vegetation shade mitigate the expected rise in stream temperatures due to climate change during heat waves in a human-impacted pre-alpine river?

Heidelinde Trimmel1, Philipp Weihs1, David Leidinger1, Herbert Formayer1, Gerda Kalny2, and Andreas Melcher3 Heidelinde Trimmel et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology, University of Natural Resources and Life Science (BOKU), Vienna, Austria
  • 2Institute of Soil Bioengineering and Landscape Construction (IBLB), University of Natural Resources and Life Science (BOKU), Vienna, Austria
  • 3Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (IHG), University of Natural Resources and Life Science (BOKU), Vienna, Austria

Abstract. Global warming has already affected European rivers and their aquatic biota, and climate models predict an increase of temperature in central Europe over all seasons. We simulated the influence of expected changes in heat wave intensity during the 21st century on water temperatures of a heavily impacted pre-alpine Austrian river and analysed future mitigating effects of riparian vegetation shade on radiant and turbulent energy fluxes using the deterministic Heat Source model. Modelled stream water temperature increased less than 1.5°C within the first half of the century. Until 2100, a more significant increase of around 3°C in minimum, maximum and mean stream temperatures was predicted for a 20-year return period heat event. The result showed clearly that in a highly altered river system riparian vegetation was not able to fully mitigate the predicted temperature rise caused by climate change but would be able to reduce water temperature by 1 to 2°C. The removal of riparian vegetation amplified stream temperature increases. Maximum stream temperatures could increase by more than 4°C even in annual heat events. Such a dramatic water temperature shift of some degrees, especially in summer, would indicate a total shift of aquatic biodiversity. The results demonstrate that effective river restoration and mitigation require re-establishing riparian vegetation and emphasize the importance of land–water interfaces and their ecological functioning in aquatic environments.

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Short summary
In eastern Austria, where air temperature rise is double that recorded globally, stream temperatures of a human-impacted river were simulated during heat waves, as calculated by regional climate models until 2100. An increase of up to 3 °C was predicted – thus exceeding thresholds of resident cold-adapted species. Vegetation management scenarios showed that adding vegetation can reduce both absolute temperatures and its rate of increase but is not able to fully mitigate the expected rise.
In eastern Austria, where air temperature rise is double that recorded globally, stream...