, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 359–381

Riparian Ecosystems in the 21st Century: Hotspots for Climate Change Adaptation?


    • Australian Rivers InstituteGriffith University
  • Lynda E. Chambers
    • Centre for Australian Weather and Climate ResearchBureau of Meteorology
  • Ralph Mac Nally
    • Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological SciencesMonash University
  • Robert J. Naiman
    • School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of Washington
    • Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Western Australia
  • Peter Davies
    • Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Western Australia
  • Nadine Marshall
    • CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
  • Jamie Pittock
    • Crawford School of Public PolicyThe Australian National University
  • Michael Reid
    • School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social SciencesUniversity of New England
  • Timothy Capon
    • CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
  • Michael Douglas
    • NERP Northern Australia Hub and Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research HubCharles Darwin University
  • Jane Catford
    • School of BotanyThe University of Melbourne
    • Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National University
  • Darren S. Baldwin
    • CSIRO Land and Water and the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research CentreLaTrobe University
  • Michael Stewardson
    • Department of Infrastructure EngineeringThe University of Melbourne
  • Jane Roberts
    • Institute of Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt University
  • Meg Parsons
    • School of Population HealthThe University of Melbourne
  • Stephen E. Williams
    • Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change, School of Marine & Tropical BiologyJames Cook University

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-013-9656-1

Cite this article as:
Capon, S.J., Chambers, L.E., Mac Nally, R. et al. Ecosystems (2013) 16: 359. doi:10.1007/s10021-013-9656-1


Riparian ecosystems in the 21st century are likely to play a critical role in determining the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change, and in influencing the capacity of these systems to adapt. Some authors have suggested that riparian ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts due to their high levels of exposure and sensitivity to climatic stimuli, and their history of degradation. Others have highlighted the probable resilience of riparian ecosystems to climate change as a result of their evolution under high levels of climatic and environmental variability. We synthesize current knowledge of the vulnerability of riparian ecosystems to climate change by assessing the potential exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of their key components and processes, as well as ecosystem functions, goods and services, to projected global climatic changes. We review key pathways for ecological and human adaptation for the maintenance, restoration and enhancement of riparian ecosystem functions, goods and services and present emerging principles for planned adaptation. Our synthesis suggests that, in the absence of adaptation, riparian ecosystems are likely to be highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. However, given the critical role of riparian ecosystem functions in landscapes, as well as the strong links between riparian ecosystems and human well-being, considerable means, motives and opportunities for strategically planned adaptation to climate change also exist. The need for planned adaptation of and for riparian ecosystems is likely to be strengthened as the importance of many riparian ecosystem functions, goods and services will grow under a changing climate. Consequently, riparian ecosystems are likely to become adaptation ‘hotspots’ as the century unfolds.


adaptive capacityecosystem servicesenvironmental managementfloodplainshuman adaptationvulnerabilitywater resources

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013