, Volume 694, Issue 1, pp 1–39 | Cite as

Impacts of climate warming on the long-term dynamics of key fish species in 24 European lakes

  • Erik JeppesenEmail author
  • Thomas Mehner
  • Ian J. Winfield
  • Külli Kangur
  • Jouko Sarvala
  • Daniel Gerdeaux
  • Martti Rask
  • Hilmar J. Malmquist
  • Kerstin Holmgren
  • Pietro Volta
  • Susana Romo
  • Reiner Eckmann
  • Alfred Sandström
  • Saúl Blanco
  • Andu Kangur
  • Henrik Ragnarsson Stabo
  • Marjo Tarvainen
  • Anne-Mari Ventelä
  • Martin Søndergaard
  • Torben L. Lauridsen
  • Mariana Meerhoff
Review Paper


Fish play a key role in the trophic dynamics of lakes. With climate warming, complex changes in fish assemblage structure may be expected owing to direct effects of temperature and indirect effects operating through eutrophication, water level changes, stratification and salinisation. We reviewed published and new long-term (10–100 years) fish data series from 24 European lakes (area: 0.04–5,648 km2; mean depth: 1–177 m; a north–south gradient from Sweden to Spain). Along with an annual temperature increase of about 0.15–0.3°C per decade profound changes have occurred in either fish assemblage composition, body size and/or age structure during recent decades and a shift towards higher dominance of eurythermal species. These shifts have occurred despite a reduction in nutrient loading in many of the lakes that should have benefited the larger-sized individuals and the fish species typically inhabiting cold-water, low-nutrient lakes. The cold-stenothermic Arctic charr has been particularly affected and its abundance has decreased in the majority of the lakes where its presence was recorded. The harvest of cool-stenothermal brown trout has decreased substantially in two southern lakes. Vendace, whitefish and smelt show a different response depending on lake depth and latitude. Perch has apparently been stimulated in the north, with stronger year classes in warm years, but its abundance has declined in the southern Lake Maggiore, Italy. Where introduced, roach seems to take advantage of the higher temperature after years of low population densities. Eurythermal species such as common bream, pike–perch and/or shad are apparently on the increase in several of the lakes. The response of fish to the warming has been surprisingly strong and fast in recent decades, making them ideal sentinels for detecting and documenting climate-induced modifications of freshwater ecosystems.


Climate change Fish assemblages Functional traits Long-term data series Europe 



The authors thank A.M. Poulsen for editing the manuscript and Juana Jacobsen and Tinna Christensen for graphical assistance. This project was supported by the EU FP-7 Theme 6 projects WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological Status and Recovery, Contract No.: 226273) and REFRESH (Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems, Contract No.: 244121), ‘CLEAR’ (a Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence project) and CIRCE. The study was further supported by the Research Council for Nature and Universe (272-08-0406), the STF project CRES and the Greenland Climate Research Centre, the Estonian target funding project SF 0170006s08, the German Research Foundation (DFG, projects Me 1686/5-1, 5-2, 5-3), and CIPAIS (International Commission for the protection of Italian-Swiss waters) and CISPP (Italian-Swiss Commission for the Fishery). We are grateful to the Cofradía de Pescadores del Palmar (Valencia, Spain), Conselleria de Medio Ambiente de Valencia and AEMET for providing, respectively, fish capture data and chemical and meteorological data from Lake Albufera.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Jeppesen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Thomas Mehner
    • 4
  • Ian J. Winfield
    • 5
  • Külli Kangur
    • 6
  • Jouko Sarvala
    • 7
  • Daniel Gerdeaux
    • 8
  • Martti Rask
    • 9
  • Hilmar J. Malmquist
    • 10
  • Kerstin Holmgren
    • 11
  • Pietro Volta
    • 12
  • Susana Romo
    • 13
  • Reiner Eckmann
    • 14
  • Alfred Sandström
    • 11
  • Saúl Blanco
    • 13
  • Andu Kangur
    • 6
  • Henrik Ragnarsson Stabo
    • 11
  • Marjo Tarvainen
    • 15
  • Anne-Mari Ventelä
    • 15
  • Martin Søndergaard
    • 1
  • Torben L. Lauridsen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mariana Meerhoff
    • 1
    • 16
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  2. 2.Greenland Climate Research Centre (GCRC)Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  3. 3.Sino-Danish Centre for Education and ResearchBeijingChina
  4. 4.Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Centre for Ecology & HydrologyLancaster Environment CentreBailriggUK
  6. 6.Centre for Limnology at IAESEstonian University of Life SciencesTartuEstonia
  7. 7.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  8. 8.INRA, Stn Hydrobiol LacustreThonon Les BainsFrance
  9. 9.Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Evo Fisheries Research StationEvoFinland
  10. 10.Natural History Museum of KópavogurKópavogurIceland
  11. 11.Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Freshwater ResearchSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesDrottningholmSweden
  12. 12.Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Institute of Ecosystems StudyVerbania PallanzaItaly
  13. 13.Department of Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Campus BurjasotUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  14. 14.Limnological InstituteUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  15. 15.Pyhäjärvi InstituteKauttuaFinland
  16. 16.Departamento de Ecología y Evolución, Centro Universitario Regional Este (CURE), Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de la RepúblicaMaldonadoUruguay

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