The River Ecology and Management Research Group belongs to the Department of Environmental and Life Sciences at Karlstad University. The group mainly focuses on applied research projects concerned with the human impact on streams and rivers as a valuable natural resource and how this impact can be minimised.
The ecological research is focused on fluvial systems and includes both basic research and applied research. Much of the research within our research profile is about studying different ecological connections in nature. The research mainly looks at fish but other organisms are also studied. In our basic research, we look at the winter ecology of fish and the importance of the connection between land and water for salmonids. In our applied research, we study issues related to water regulation, fish passage, fish migration, fish farming and endangered species of mussel.
A core team of a few biologists in the early 2000s has grown into an international team of prominent researchers. Through conscious efforts, the research group has grown in recent years with the recruitment of two professors, one promotion to professor and three to promotions to reader.
Project assistants, field technicians and laboratory engineers:
Khadija Aziz, project assistant
Niclas Carlsson, field technician
Mahboobeh Hajiesmaeili, project assistant
Geni Carmen Zanol, laboratory engineer
Research areas NRRV:
Freshwater is essential to life on Earth, providing irreplaceable ecosystem services including drinking water, power and transport, food and irrigation, and flood control, as well as recreational and cultural values. Although freshwater ecosystems make up only 0.01% of all the water on Earth, they are disproportionally rich in plant and animal diversity and are among the most imperiled. Two important anthropogenic stressors with negative impacts on biodiversity are habitat destruction and loss of connectivity. These anthropogenic stressors are expected to be exacerbated by ongoing global warming.Because aquatic and terrestrial systems are tightly coupled, it is now widely recognized that sustainable management of freshwaters must be accomplished at the watershed scale, as manifested by the EU Water Framework Directive. Conservation plans should apply sound ecological knowledge to help meet societal needs while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Rivers are dependent on unencumbered movement from headwaters to river mouths by many different organisms. The construction of barriers such as dams not only hinders free movement within rivers but also modifies riverine habitats and their associated biological communities. Measures to improve river connectivity and restore habitat are thus key challenges for river managers.
The river connectivity group conducts research on the following areas:
Understanding how riverine ecosystems respond to dam removal through studies of river foods webs, river metabolism and altered migratory behavior
Migratory behavior and the ecological consequences of impaired connectivity as well as develop solutions to improve upstream and downstream passage in regulated rivers
Habitat improvements in regulated rivers, such as restoring riffles and spawning habitats as well as linking habitats in tributaries with main stem rivers
Swedish public perspectives of dams
The Aquatic-Terrestrial Habitats and Linkages
In recent years, ecologists have come to realize that ecosystems have diffuse boundaries, and that habitat perturbations can have far-reaching effects across these boundaries. Changes in land-use in terrestrial habitats, for example, can have strong effects on biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems; only recently have we come to realize these effects may reciprocate back to terrestrial systems. The tight couplings of adjacent ecosystems means that feedback loops may amplify the effects of habitat change, leading to disruption of ecosystem services such as productive agricultural of forest land, or sustainable fisheries.
The aquatic-terrestrial group conducts research on the following areas:
Multi-scalar effects of landscape patterns as drivers of reciprocal ecosystem subsidies
Effects of forestry practices on food webs and reciprocal aquatic-terrestrial linkages
Modelling habitat quality based on the interaction between flow and habitat for different organisms
Swedish public perspectives of forests
Winter ecology in a changing world
Major ecological changes are expected to occur during this century as a result of ongoing global climate change. In relative terms, changes in temperature are expected to be greatest in winter at northern latitudes, with warmer stream temperatures and shorter periods of ice cover. Aquatic organisms must adapt to these physical changes in their environment, and these changes have repercussions for behavior, predator-prey interactions, food availability and life history strategies.
The winter ecology group conducts research on the following areas:
Effects of winter temperature on the behavior and physiology of salmonids subjected to predation risk
Effects of egg incubation temperature in winter on behavior and life history of salmonids
Effects of ice cover on salmonid behavior related to foraging, aggression and predation risk from both aquatic and terrestrial predators