Climate change and human activities are expected to change the quantity of water entering rivers and streams, with potentially dramatic impacts on animals and plants resident in these ecosystems. In many regions, climate change is expected to reduce rainfall and bring about drought conditions, and water abstraction and river diversions may also reduce flows in rivers and streams. To date, relatively little work has been done to determine the effect of hydrologic droughts on aquatic biodiversity, and less is known about impacts on important processes, such as decomposition and nutrient cycling, that affect water quality and productivity of aquatic life.
Our research addresses this significant gap by linking community-level effects of drought (e.g. on algae, macrophytes, invertebrates, fish assemblages) with their corresponding process-level responses (e.g. primary production, organic matter decomposition, predation). We are also assessing how drought alters food web structure and whole-system metabolism, by quantifying ecosystem respiration and macronutrient cycling in complex multispecies communities.