Anthropogenic impacts on lake and stream ecosystems, and approaches to restoration.

Published online
19 Dec 2007
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Søndergaard, M. & Jeppesen, E.
Contact email(s)

Publication language


Freshwater ecosystems have long been affected by numerous types of human interventions that have a negative impact on their water quality and ecological state. Fortunately, in most western countries the input of sewage to freshwater systems has been reduced, but hydromorphological alterations, eutrophication-related turbidity and loss of biodiversity remain major problems in many parts of the world. Such impacts prevent the achievement of a high or good ecological state, as defined by the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) or other standards. This paper synthesizes and links the findings presented in the seven papers of this special profile, focusing on the effects of anthropogenic stressors on freshwater ecosystems and on how to maintain and restore ecological quality. The papers cover a broad range of research areas and methods, but are all centred on the relationship between dispersal barriers, the connectivity of waterways and the restoration of rivers and lakes. The construction of dams and reservoirs disturbs the natural functioning of many streams and rivers and shore-line development around lakes may reduce habitat complexity. New methods demonstrate how reservoirs may have a severe impact on the distribution and connectivity of fish populations, and new techniques illustrate the potential of using graph theory and connectivity models to illustrate the ecological implications. Hydromorphologically degraded rivers and streams can be restored by addition of wood debris, but 'passive' restoration via natural wood recruitment may be preferable. The most cost-effective way to restore streams may also include information campaigns to farmers on best management practices. Removal of zooplanktivorous fish often has marked positive effects on trophic structure in lakes, but there is a tendency to return to turbid conditions after 8-10 years or less unless fish removal is repeated. Synthesis and applications. Development of new methods, as well as derivation of more general conclusions from reviewing the effects of previous restoration efforts, are crucial to achieve progress in applied freshwater research. The papers contained in this Special Profile contribute on both counts, as well as illustrating the importance of well-designed research projects and monitoring programmes to record the effects of the interventions. Such efforts are vital if we are to improve our knowledge of freshwater systems and to elaborate the best and most cost-effective recommendations. They may also help in achieving a good ecological state or potential in water bodies by 2015, as demanded by the European WFD.

Key words