, Volume 719, Issue 1, pp 383–425 | Cite as

The effects of land use changes on streams and rivers in mediterranean climates

  • Scott D. Cooper
  • P. Sam Lake
  • Sergi Sabater
  • John M. Melack
  • John L. Sabo


We reviewed the literature on the effects of land use changes on mediterranean river ecosystems (med-rivers) to provide a foundation and directions for future research on catchment management during times of rapid human population growth and climate change. Seasonal human demand for water in mediterranean climate regions (med-regions) is high, leading to intense competition for water with riverine communities often containing many endemic species. The responses of river communities to human alterations of land use, vegetation, hydrological, and hydrochemical conditions are similar in mediterranean and other climatic regions. High variation in hydrological regimes in med-regions, however, tends to exacerbate the magnitude of these responses. For example, land use changes promote longer dry season flows, concentrating contaminants, allowing the accumulation of detritus, algae, and plants, and fostering higher temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels, all of which may extirpate sensitive native species. Exotic species often thrive in med-rivers altered by human activity, further homogenizing river communities worldwide. We recommend that future research rigorously evaluate the effects of management and restoration practices on river ecosystems, delineate the cause–effect pathways leading from human perturbations to stream biological communities, and incorporate analyses of the effects of scale, land use heterogeneity, and high temporal hydrological variability on stream communities.


Mediterranean rivers Streams Land use Ecosystems 



PSL thanks Paul Reich of the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment and Andrew Boulton of East Fremantle for supplying information and comments on parts of this article. JS expresses appreciation to Steven Gaines of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Policy and Cherie Briggs of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology for hosting his sabbatical visit to UC-Santa Barbara which provided a platform for his collaboration on this project. JMM and SDC thank Kristie Klose, Jeff Brinkman, Al Leydecker, and Blair Goodrich for assistance in the field and with analysis, and Sheila Wiseman for assistance with the figures and references. SDC thanks Carola Flores for information on Chilean prehistory. SS acknowledges the funding of SCARCE (CONSOLIDER-INGENIO CSD2009-00065) and CARBONET (CGL2011-30474-C02-01) of the Spanish Science Ministry. Funding from the US National Science Foundation (Grants OCE-9982105 and OCE-0620276) supported studies of land use effects on streams in southern California.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott D. Cooper
    • 1
  • P. Sam Lake
    • 2
  • Sergi Sabater
    • 3
    • 4
  • John M. Melack
    • 1
  • John L. Sabo
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute of Aquatic EcologyUniversity of GironaGironaSpain
  4. 4.Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)GironaSpain
  5. 5.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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