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Research task 5: Impacts of climate change on structure, ecological integrity and management of inland waterways

Task Manager:
Dr Helmut Fischer, BfG,
Tel. +49(0)261/1306-5458,

Dr Annette Becker, BfG,
Tel. +49(0)261/1306-5520,


Potential influences of climate change on the ecological integrity of the Federal waterways are assessed against the background of dependable climate and runoff scenarios (changes in the average and expected extremes). This knowledge will bring the BMVBS and its executive agencies into the position to respond early to expected changes, initiate adaptation measures and to coordinate them with the other stakeholders. Economic and ecological damage may be mitigated or even averted, and political decisions can be taken with foresight on a sound scientific foundation.
On major aim of this research task is to make a distinction between the influence of climate on water bodies and other influences, such as anthropogenic interventions into the geometry of water bodies. The knowledge about climate-induced changes will also imply recommendations for the management of catchments in the future. Moreover, the application of the model system to be developed under KLIWAS will improve the projections of the expected changes in the ecological status of waterways significantly. Potential conflicts may be identified and avoided early. The model outputs will also yield suggestions for possibly needed adaptations of hydro-engineering measures for the preservation of the ecological integrity of Federal waterways. Another outcome will be information about changed stresses on downstream tidal and coastal waters from contaminated sediments, organic suspended matter, and algae from the inland.


  • The impacts of climate change on the sediment budget and the risk potential of historical sediment deposits will be identified in the Upper Rhine and the German non-tidal reach of the River Elbe (project 5.01). Consequences of new contaminant distribution patterns for dredging projects will be examined, and the patterns of organic contaminants will be reviewed for climate-induced variations (projects 5.01, 5.04). The potential of climate-induced deterioration of the hygienic situation in Federal waterways will be highlighted (project 5.03).
  • Developments in water quality especially regarding algae and organic suspended matter will be simulated by means of the water-quality model QSim (project 5.02). Tests will be made to see whether the dying of mussels in masses in the River Rhine has to be expected and whether toxic blue-green algae may proliferate in the River Havel in dangerous masses. Regarding riverbank and floodplain vegetation, models of habitat suitability will be developed or existing ones upgraded to take new flow situations into account (project 5.06). Additionally, the effects of climate change on fauna habitats in Federal waterways will be assessed (project 5.07).
  • Finally, concepts will be devised that make it possible to reduce stresses to be expected from climate change in the long run (project 5.08). These concepts use indicators for inland waterways on the river-basin scale. The aim is to review the impacts of climate-induced changes on the system "Federal waterway" and the effects of adaptation options in their interactions.

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