Colloquium of the Platform Biodiversity – River biodiversity in space and time

Freshwater systems such as rivers and lakes cover only about 2% of the Earth’s surface, but are home to an astonishing 10% of known species and about one-third of all vertebrates. They provide essential services to humans and are therefore among the ecosystems most at risk due to human activities. Sustainable management of water resources is therefore crucial for the protection of biodiversity. At the European level, environmental directives aim to restore the ecological status of rivers through monitoring and conservation measures. Despite these efforts, many river ecosystems remain in an altered state, and the ecological indicators that are supposed to serve as a basis for management decisions are often unable to accurately determine the nature and origin of the changes. Part of this problem lies in the challenge of accurately quantifying biodiversity and its changes. This difficulty is particularly pronounced in riverine ecosystems due to their strong spatial and temporal dynamics. Drawing on his own research experience, Stefano Larsen will show how closely the aquatic and terrestrial environments are linked and how the river ecosystem extends far beyond its banks. He will also discuss whether the recent recovery of biodiversity in European rivers may hide important changes in species composition.

Stefano Larsen is a research associate in quantitative ecology at the Edmund Mach Foundation since 2019. In his research, which is split between the UK, Germany and Italy, Stefano Larsen investigates how natural and anthropogenic processes influence the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems, with a focus on rivers and riparian zones.

The event can also be followed online on the Museum’s YouTube channel.