Climatic Change

, Volume 95, Issue 3–4, pp 469–483 | Cite as

Potential impacts of global climate change on the hydrology and ecology of ephemeral freshwater systems of the forests of the northeastern United States



Global, national, and regional assessments of the potential effects of Global Climate Change (GCC) have been recently released, but not one of these assessments has specifically addressed the critical issue of the potential impacts of GCC on ephemeral freshwater systems (EFS). I suggest that this is a major oversight as EFS occur in various forms across the globe. In the northeastern United States, these systems, whether ephemeral (“vernal”) pools or ephemeral or intermittent headwater streams are abundant and provide unique habitats critical to the maintenance of forest biodiversity. Since the hydrology of these waterbodies is strongly affected by weather patterns (in the short-term) or climate (long-term), they are especially sensitive to climate change. In this essay, I review the literature on relationships between climate and hydrology of EFS and on relationships between hydrology and ecology of these systems. I then conclude with my assessment of potential impacts of GCC on the hydrology of EFS and implications for their ecology. The focus of this essay will be on EFS of the forests of the northeastern United States, but will include literature from other regions as they relate to the general relationships between GCC and EFS.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 201 Holdsworth Natural Resources CenterUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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