Aquatic Sciences

, 73:581 | Cite as

Assessing water stress in Mediterranean lotic systems: insights from an artificially intermittent river in Greece

  • Nikolaos Th. Skoulikidis
  • Leonidas Vardakas
  • Ioannis KaraouzasEmail author
  • Alcibiades N. Economou
  • Elias Dimitriou
  • Stamatis Zogaris
Recent Perspectives on Temporary River Ecology


Water stress in Mediterranean countries is the result of both variable and changing climatic conditions and widespread anthropogenic pressures. Evrotas, an intermittent river located in Southern Greece, was used as a case study to assess the impacts of water stress on Mediterranean lotic ecosystems. Based on hydrological analyses, it was revealed that during prolonged drought years, such as the summers of 2007 and 2008, the vast majority of the Evrotas riverbed was completely desiccated, primarily as a result of substantial water abstraction for irrigation. The effects of desiccation on the riverine ecosystem were evaluated using fish and macroinvertebrate assemblages according to the demands of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD). Faunal responses to water stress were assessed through comparisons of assemblages attributes in perennial and intermittent reaches and pre-drought versus post-drought communities. Effects of hydrological disturbance on fish species richness, density, percentage composition and size structure were more pronounced in intermittent than in perennial sites. The most obvious and immediate impact was the elimination of populations in the intermittent reaches. However, upon flow resumption, the recolonisation from upstream perennial reaches began, thereby permitting partial re-establishment of the depleted fish communities. Nevertheless, the structural integrity of fish communities remained severely impacted and recovery was markedly slow. On the contrary, post-drought macroinvertebrate assemblages were not affected by summer droughts, and the recruitment processes were rapid after flow resumption. Our findings point to the necessity of establishing a distinction between naturally and artificially driven intermittent rivers. We, therefore, propose the introduction of an “artificially intermittent Mediterranean river” condition within the context of the WFD assessment applications.


Mediterranean Water stress Intermittent rivers Drought Fish Macroinvertebrates 



The data for this article is derived from the LIFE-EnviFriendly Project (LIFE05 ENV/GR/000245): “Environmental friendly technologies for rural development” (, which was carried out in the Evrotas River Basin during 2005–2009. We would like to express our gratitude to V. Papadoulakis (Lakonia Prefecture), who provided historical hydro-meteorological time series and to Andriopoulou A., Koutsodimou M., Kouvarda T., Akepsimaidis K., Tachos V., Kommatas D., Koutsikos N., Chatzinikolaou Y., Charalabous I. and Economou E. for their assistance in field work and laboratory analysis.


  1. Adams SB, Warren ML (2005) Recolonization by warm water fishes and crayfishes after severe drought in upper coastal plain hill streams. T Am Fish Soc 134:1173–1192. doi: 10.1577/TfW-089.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angelidis MO, Markantonatos PG, Bacalis NC (1995) Impact of human activities on the quality of river water: the case of Evrotas River catchment Basin, Greece. Environ Monit Assess 35:137–153. doi: 10.1007/BF00633711 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. AQEM Consortium (2002) Manual for the application of the AQEM method. A comprehensive method to assess European streams using benthic macroinvertebrates, developed for the purpose of the Water Framework Directive. Version 1.0, February 2002, pp 202Google Scholar
  4. Benejam L, Angermeier PL, Munne A, Garcia-Berthou E (2010) Assessing effects of water abstraction on fish assemblages in Mediterranean streams. Freshwater Biol 55:628–642. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02299.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bizas C (1995) Restoration and management of European riparian landscapes: the case of Evrotas’ riparian area. The European Association for Environmental Management Master’s thesis, pp 100Google Scholar
  6. Bobori DC, Economidis PS (2006) Freshwater fishes of Greece: their biodiversity, fisheries and habitats. Aquat Ecosyst Health 9(4):407–418. doi: 10.1080/14634980601027855 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bonada N, Rieradevall M, Prat N, Resh VH (2006) Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and macrohabitat connectivity in Mediterranean-climate streams of Northern California. J N Am Benthol Soc 25:32–43. doi: 10.1899/0887-3593 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bonada N, Doledec S, Statzner B (2007) Taxonomic biological trait differences of stream macroinvertebrate communities between Mediterranean and temperate regions: implications for future climatic scenarios. Glob Change Biol 13:1658–1671. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bond NR, Lake PS, Arthington AH (2008) The impact of droughts on freshwater ecosystems: an Australian perspective. Hydrobiologia 600:3–16. doi: 10.1007/s10750-008-9326-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bostelmann R, Braukmann U, Briem E, Fleischhacker T, Humborg G, Nadolny I, Scheurlen K, Weibel U (1998) An approach to classification of natural streams and floodplains in South-west Germany. In: de Waal LC, Large ARG, Wade PM (eds) Rehabilitation of rivers: principles and implementation. Wiley, Chichester, pp 31–55Google Scholar
  11. Boulton AJ (2003) Parallels and contrasts in the effects of drought on stream macroinvertebrate assemblages. Freshwater Biol 48:1173–1185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boulton AJ, Lake PS (1992) The ecology of two intermittent streams in Victoria, Australia: III. Temporal changes in faunal composition. Freshwater Biol 27(1):123–138Google Scholar
  13. Boulton AJ, Lake PS (2008) Effects of drought on stream insects and its ecological consequences. In: Lancaster J, Briers RA (eds) Aquatic insects: challenges to populations. CAB International, Wallingford, pp 81–102. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bradford RB (2000) Drought events in Europe. In: Vogt JV, Somma F (eds) Drought and drought mitigation in Europe. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, p 319Google Scholar
  15. Bunn SE, Arthington AH (2002) Basic principles and ecological consequences of altered flow regimes for aquatic biodiversity. Environ Manage 30(4):492–507. doi: 10.1007/s00267-002-2737-0 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cavanagh W, Crouwel J, Catling RWV, Shipley G (2002) Continuity and change in a greek rural landscape: the laconia survey—methodology and interpretation, vol I. Annual of the British School at Athens, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. CEN (European Committee for Standardization) (1994) Water quality - Methods of biological sampling: Guidance on hand net sampling of aquatic benthic macro-invertebrates. EN 27828:1994 EGoogle Scholar
  18. Chadzichristidi K, Beltsios S, Papakonstantinou A (1991) Pinios River water quality measurements. 2nd Conference on Environmental Science & Technology, Lesvos September, 630–639 (in Greek with English abstract)Google Scholar
  19. Chiew FHS (2006) Estimation of rainfall elasticity of streamflow in Australia. Hydrol Sci J 51(4):613–625. doi: 10.1623/hysj.51.4.613 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2006) PRIMER v6: User Manual/Tutorial. PRIMER-E, Plymouth, p 190Google Scholar
  21. Cudennec C, Leduc C, Koutsoyiannis D (2007) Dryland hydrology in Mediterranean regions: a review. Hydrolog Sci J 52(6):1077–1087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Daufresne M, Boët P (2007) Climate change impacts on structure and diversity of fish communities in rivers. Glob Change Biol 13:2467–2478. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Demuth, S, Stahl K (eds) (2001) Assessment of the regional impact of droughts in Europe. Final Report to the European Union, ENV-CT97-0553, Institute of Hydrology, University of Freiburg, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  24. Detenbeck NE, DeVore P, Niemi GJ, Lima A (1992) Recovery of temperate-stream fish communities from disturbance: a review of case studies and synthesis of theory. Environ Manage 16:33–53. doi: 10.1007/BF02393907 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dimopoulos P, Zotos A, Zogaris S (2009) Protocol for a rapid assessment of riparian zone conservation. Environmental Friendly Technologies for Rural Development, Final Report 2005–09, LIFE-ENVIRONMENT LIFE05ENV/Gr/000245 EE (EnviFriendly), pp 127–141Google Scholar
  26. EEA (2000) Environmental signals: environmental assessment report No 6. Copenhagen, Denmark, p 108Google Scholar
  27. EEA (2008) Impacts of Europe’s changing climate–indicator based assessment. Joint EEA-JRC-WHO report, EEA Report No 4/2008, JRC Reference Report No JRC47756, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp 207Google Scholar
  28. EEA (2009) Water resources across Europe: confronting water scarcity and drought. EEA Report No 2, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp 55Google Scholar
  29. EC (2007) WFD intercalibration technical report. MedGIG Intercalibration technical report: Part 1 Rivers, Section 1 Benthic Invertebrates, 15 June 2007, pp 17Google Scholar
  30. Economou A, Barbieri R, Daoulas C, Psarras T, Stoumboudi M, Bertahas H, Giakoumi S, Patsias A (1999a) Endangered freshwater fish of western Greece and the Peloponnese: Distribution, abundance, threats and measures for protection. Final Technical Report, National Centre for Marine Research, pp 341Google Scholar
  31. Economou AN, Barbieri R, Stoumboudi M (1999b) Threatened endemic freshwater fishes to Greece: the Evrotas case. Workshop on “Wetland Restoration”, 12–14 November 1999, Gythion, GreeceGoogle Scholar
  32. Economou AN, Giakoumi S, Vardakas L, Barbieri R, Stoumboudi M, Zogaris S (2007a) The freshwater ichthyofauna of Greece: an update based on a hydrographic basin survey. Mediterranean Marine Sci 8(1):91–168Google Scholar
  33. Economou AN, Zogaris S, Chatzinikolaou Y, Tachos V, Giakoumi S, Kommatas D, Koutsikos N, Vardakas L, Blasel K, Dussling U (2007b) Development of an ichthyological multimetric index for ecological status assessment of Greek mountain streams and rivers. Technical Report. Hellenic Center for Marine Research – Institute of Inland Waters, Hellenic Ministry for Development, pp 166Google Scholar
  34. Estrela T, Marcuello C, Iglesias A (1996) Water resources problems in southern Europe an overview report. European Topic Centre on Inland Waters, European Environment Agency, pp 45Google Scholar
  35. Eurostat (2009) EuroMediterranean statistics. European Communities, Luxemburg, p 216Google Scholar
  36. FAME (2005) Fish-based assessment method for the ecological status of European rivers—a contribution to the Water Framework Directive. Final Report; Manual for the application of the European Fish Index (EFI), pp 41Google Scholar
  37. Gasith A, Resh VH (1999) Streams in Mediterranean climate regions: abiotic influences and biotic responses to predictable seasonal events. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 31:51–58. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.30.1.51 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gordon ND, Mcmahon TA, Finlayson BL, Gipple CJ, Nathan RJ (2004) Stream hydrology: an introduction for ecologists, 2nd edn. Wiley, West SussexGoogle Scholar
  39. Gore JA (1982) Benthic invertebrate colonization: source distance effects on community composition. Hydrobiologia 94:183–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hamon WR (1961) Estimating potential evapotranspiration. J Hydraul Div Proc Am Soc Civil Eng 87:107–120Google Scholar
  41. Hillel D (1980) Fundamentals of Soil Physics. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Isendahl N, Schmidt G (2006) Drought in the Mediterranean: WWF Policy Proposals, WWF/Adena, WWF Mediterranean Programme, WWF GermanyGoogle Scholar
  43. Jacobson PJ, Jacobson KM, Angermeier PL, Cherry DS (2004) Variation in material transport and water chemistry along a large ephemeral river in the Namid Desert. Freshwater Biol 44:481–491. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lake PS (2000) Disturbance, patchiness, and diversity in streams. J N Am Benthol Soc 19:573–592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lake PS (2003) Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshwater Biol 48:1161–1172. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Larned S, Arscott D, Datry T, Tockner K (2008) Special session—intermittent rivers: global phenomena and unexplored riverscapes I. The North American Benthological Society 56th Annual Meeting, 25–28 May, 2008Google Scholar
  47. Larned S, Datry T, Arscott D, Tockner K (2010) Emerging concepts in temporary-river ecology. Freshwater Biol 55(4):717–738. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02322.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ludwig W, Dumont E, Meybeck M, Heussner S (2009) River discharges of water and nutrients to the Mediterranean and Black Sea: Major drivers for ecosystem changes during past and future decades? Prog Oceanogr 80:199–217. doi: 10.1016/j.pocean CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Magalhães MF, Batalha DC, Collares-Pereira MJ (2002) Gradients in stream fish assemblages across a Mediterranean landscape: contributions of environmental factors and spatial structure. Freshwater Biol 47:1015–1031. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427.2002.00830.x Google Scholar
  50. Magalhaes MF, Beja P, Schlosser IJ, Collares-Pereira MJ (2007) Effects of multi-year droughts on fish assemblages of seasonally drying Mediterranean streams. Freshwater Biol 52:1494–1510. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Magoulick DD, Kobza RM (2003) The role of refugia for fishes during drought: a review and synthesis. Freshwater Biol 48:1186–1198. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mathews WJ (1998) Patterns in freshwater fish ecology. Chapman & Hall, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Matthews WJ, Matthews EM (2003) Effects of drought on fish across axes of space, time and ecological complexity. Freshwater Biol 48:1232–1253. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2427.2003.01087.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Meybeck M (2003) Global analysis of river systems: from Earth system controls to Anthropocene symptoms. Phil Trans R Soc Lond 358(1140):1935–1955. doi: 10.1098/rstb Google Scholar
  55. Miller AM, Golladay SW (1996) Effects of spates and drying on macroinvertebrate assemblages of an intermittent and a perennial prairie stream. J N Am Benthol Soc 15:670–689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Munoz I (2003) Macroinvertebrate community structure in an intermittent and a permanent Mediterranean stream (NE Spain). Limnetica 22:107–116Google Scholar
  57. Niemi GJ, DeVore P, Detenbeck N, Taylor D, Lima A, Pastor J, Yount JD, Naiman RJ (1990) Overview of case studies on recovery of aquatic systems from disturbance. Environ Manage 14:571–587. doi: 10.1007/BF02394710 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Nikolaidis N, Skoulikidis N, Kalogerakis N, Tsakiris K (2009) Environmental Friendly Technologies for Rural Development, Final Report 2005–09, LIFE-ENVIRONMENT LIFE05ENV/Gr/000245 EE (EnviFriendly)Google Scholar
  59. Norrant C, Douguédroit A (2006) Monthly and daily precipitation trends in the Mediterranean (1950–2000). Theor Appl Climatol 83:89–106. doi: 10.1007/s00704-005-0163-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. OECD (2000) Environmental indicators: towards sustainable development, technical report, organization for economic cooperation and development, pp 132Google Scholar
  61. Otermin A, Basaguren A, Pozo J (2002) Re-colonization by the macroinvertebrate community after a drought period in a first-order stream (Agüera Basin, Northern Spain). Limnetica 21(1–2):117–128Google Scholar
  62. Papazafeiriou ZG (1999) Water demands of crops. Ziti Publications, ThessalonikiGoogle Scholar
  63. Poff NL (1997) Landscape filters and species traits: towards mechanistic understanding and prediction in stream ecology. J N Am Benthol Soc 16:391–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ryder DS, Boulton AJ (2005) Redressing the limnological imbalance: trends in aquatic ecology, management and conservation in Australia. Hydrobiologia 552:159–166. doi: 10.1007/s10750-005-1513-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sabater S, Tockner K (2010). Effects of hydrological alterations on the ecological quality of river ecosystems. In: Sabaterand S, Barcelo D (eds.) Water scarcity in the mediterranean: perspectives under global change. Springer, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  66. Skliris N, Sofianos S, Lascaratos A (2007) Hydrological changes in the Mediterranean Sea in relation to changes in the freshwater budget: a numerical modelling study. J Marine Sys 65(1–4):400–416. doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2006.01.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Skoulikidis N (editor), Economou A, Karaouzas I, Vardakas L, Gritzalis Κ, Zogaris S, Dimitriou E, Tachos V (2008a) Hydrological and biogeochemical monitoring in evrotas basin. Final technical report 1, H.C.M.R. LIFE-ENVIRONMENT: LIFE05 ENV/GR/000245 « ENVIRON-MENTAL FRIENDLY TECHNOLOGIES FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENTGoogle Scholar
  68. Skoulikidis N (editor), Economou A, Karaouzas I, Vardakas L, Gritzalis Κ, Zogaris S, Dimitriou E, Tachos V (2008b) Risk assessment of water management in Evrotas River Basin. Final technical report 2, H.C.M.R. LIFE-ENVIRONMENT: LIFE05 ENV/GR/000245 « ENVIRON-MENTAL FRIENDLY TECHNOLOGIES FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENTGoogle Scholar
  69. Skoulikidis Ν (2009) The environmental state of rivers in the Balkans: a review within the DPSIR framework. Sci Total Environ 407:2501–2516. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Skoulikidis N, Amaxidis Y, Bertahas I, Laschou S, Gritzalis K (2006) Analysis of factors driving stream water composition and synthesis of management tools–a case study on small/medium Greek catchments. Sci Total Environ 362:205–241. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.05.018 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Smakthin VU (2003) Low flow hydrology: a review. J Hydrol 240:147–186. doi: 10.1016/S0022-1694(00)00340-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Smith B (1997) Water: a critical resource. In: King R, Proudfoot L, Smith B (eds) The mediterranean: environment and society. Arnold, London, pp 227–251Google Scholar
  73. Stanley EH, Fisher SG, Jones JB (2004) Effects of water loss on primary production: a landscape-scale model. Aquat Sci 66:130–138. doi: 10.1007/s00027-003-0646-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. TempQsim Consortium (2006) Critical issues in the water quality dynamics of temporal rivers—evaluation and recommendations of the tempQsim project. In: Froebrich J, Bauer M (eds) Enduser Summary. Hannover, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  75. Tockner K, Uehlinger U, Robsinson CT, Tonolla D, Silber R, Peter FD (2009) Introduction to European Rivers. In: Tockner K, Uehlinger U, Robsinson CT (eds) Rivers of Europe. Academic Press, London, pp 1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Tramer EJ (1977) Catastrophic mortality of stream fishes trapped in shrinking pools. Am Midl Nat 97:469–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. UNEP (2004) Freshwater in Europe - Facts, Figures and Maps UNEP report on the state of Freshwater in Europe and Central AsiaGoogle Scholar
  78. UNEP/MAP (2003) Riverine transport of water, sediments and pollutants to the Mediterranean Sea. UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, Athens, GreeceGoogle Scholar
  79. UNESCO (1979) Map of the world distribution of arid regions. Map at scale 1:25, 000, 000 with explanatory note. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  80. Uys ΜC, O’Keeffe JH (1997) Simple Words and Fuzzy Zones: Early Directions for Temporary River Research in South Africa. Environ Manage 21(4):517–531. doi: 10.1007/s002679900047 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Vagiakakos DB (1989) Evrotas, terminology. Proceedings of the Special Literary Symposium, 27–29 May 1989, Sparta-Mystras, pp 361–414Google Scholar
  82. Wagstaff M (2002) The formation of the modern landscape of the survey area, Continuity and change in a Greek rural landscape “The Laconia Survey”, vol 1. Methodology and Interpretation. In: Cavanagh WG and Walker SEC (eds) The council, British School of Athens, London, pp 403–420Google Scholar
  83. Ward R (1975) Principles of hydrology. McGraw Hill, UKGoogle Scholar
  84. Williams D (1996) Environmental constraints in temporary fresh waters and their consequences for the insect fauna. J N Am Benthol Soc 15(4):634–650. doi: 10.2307/1467813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Williams D (1997) Temporary ponds and their invertebrate communities. Aquat Conserv 7:105–117. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0755 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. World Bank (2003) Water Resources Management in Europe. Environmentally and socially sustainable development department Europe and Central Asia Region. Vol. I. Issues and directions, Vol. II. Country water notes and water fact sheets, Washington, USAGoogle Scholar
  87. Zacharias I, Dimitriou E, Koussouris T (2003) Developing sustainable water management scenarios by using thorough hydrologic analysis and environmental criteria. J Environ Manage 69:401–412. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zogaris S, Economou AN, Dimopoulos P (2009) Ecoregions in the Southern Balkans: should they be revised? Environ Manage 43:682–697. doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9243-y PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikolaos Th. Skoulikidis
    • 1
  • Leonidas Vardakas
    • 1
  • Ioannis Karaouzas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alcibiades N. Economou
    • 1
  • Elias Dimitriou
    • 1
  • Stamatis Zogaris
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Inland WatersHellenic Centre for Marine ResearchAnavissosGreece

Personalised recommendations