University of Oulu

Janne Alahuhta, Tibor Erős, Olli-Matti Kärnä, Janne Soininen, Jianjun Wang, Jani Heino. Understanding environmental change through the lens of trait-based, functional, and phylogenetic biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems. Environmental Reviews, 2019, 27(2): 263-273,

Understanding environmental change through the lens of trait-based, functional, and phylogenetic biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems

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Author: Alahuhta, Janne1; Erős, Tibor2; Kärnä, Olli-Matti1;
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
2Balaton Limnological Institute, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Tihany, Hungary
3Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 64, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland
4Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 73, East Beijing Road, 210008 Nanjing, China
5University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 380 Huaibeizhuang, Huairou, 101408 Beijing, China
6Finnish Environment Institute, Biodiversity Centre, Paavo Havaksen tie 3, FI-90530 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Canadian Science Publishing, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-01-07


In the era of the Anthropocene, environmental change is accelerating biodiversity loss across ecosystems on Earth, among which freshwaters are likely the most threatened. Different biodiversity facets in the freshwater realm suffer from various environmental changes that jeopardize the ecosystem functions and services important for humankind. In this work we examine how environmental changes (e.g., climate change, eutrophication, or invasive species) affect trait-based, functional, and phylogenetic diversity of biological communities. We first developed a simple conceptual model of the possible relationships between environmental change and these three diversity facets in freshwaters and, secondly, systematically reviewed articles where these relationships had been investigated in different freshwater ecosystems. Finally, we highlighted research gaps from the perspectives of organisms, ecosystems, stressors, and geographical locations. Our conceptual model suggested that both natural factors and global change operating at various spatial scales influence freshwater community structure and ecosystem functioning. The relationships between biodiversity and environmental change depend on geographical region, organism group, spatial scale, and environmental change gradient length. The systematic review revealed that environmental change impacts biodiversity patterns in freshwaters, but there is no single type of biodiversity response to the observed global changes. Natural stressors had different, even contradictory, effects (i.e., multiple, negative, and positive) on biodiversity compared with anthropogenic stressors. Anthropogenic stressors more often decreased biodiversity, although eutrophication and climate change affected freshwater ecosystems in a complex, more multi-dimensional way. The research gaps we identified were related, for example, to the low number of community-based biodiversity studies, the lack of information on true phylogenies for all freshwater organism groups, the missing evaluations whether species traits are phylogenetically conserved, and the geographical biases in research (i.e., absence of studies from Africa, Southern Asia, and Russia). We hope that our review will stimulate more research on the less well-known facets and topics of biodiversity loss in highly vulnerable freshwater ecosystems.

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Series: Environmental reviews
ISSN: 1181-8700
ISSN-E: 1208-6053
ISSN-L: 1181-8700
Volume: 27
Issue: 2
Pages: 263 - 273
DOI: 10.1139/er-2018-0071
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: Authors have no conflict of interest to report. JW thanks Emil Aaltonen Foundation, CAS Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences (QYZDB-SSW-DQC043), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFA0605203) and NSFC (41571058, 41871048). The work of TE was supported by the GINOP 2.3.3-15-2016-00019 grant. JH acknowledges the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Environment Institute for continued support for freshwater biodiversity research.
Copyright information: © 2018 The Authors. The final publication is available at