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Drying river networks – Understanding and mitigating drought impacts on river ecosystem functioning and biodiversity (MetaDryNet)

Project description

How drought affects river network carbon dynamics

Climate change is responsible for hydrological droughts that can cause river drying, which in turn modifies biodiversity and organic matter (OM) decomposition. The OM, which includes carbon-based compounds, is transported by the flow of water and through the dispersal of the organisms that consume it. Drying alters OM transport and dispersal and as a result changes carbon cycling and CO2 emissions. However, the understanding of climate change effects on the entire river network is limited. The EU-funded MetaDryNet project will examine the effects of drying on OM transport, organism dispersal and CO2 emissions in intermittent river networks by combining meta-analysis, network-scale field experiments and modelling. The project will increase our knowledge of how resources and biodiversity are bound with drying river networks.


One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to understand and mitigate the effects of climate change on earth ecosystems. Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of hydrological droughts worldwide. In rivers, drying (i.e. the loss of surface water) is a severe disturbance that alters biodiversity and ecosystem functions such as organic matter (OM) decomposition with often negative consequences for ecosystem services (e.g. water purification) and human activities (e.g. water consumption). River networks are an aquatic continuum in a terrestrial matrix in which OM is transported, and organisms disperse laterally: from terrestrial to aquatic environment, vertically: from the riverbed surface to the subsurface and longitudinally: along the network. Drying, modifies OM transport and dispersal by cutting the water continuum, potentially altering an entire river network´s OM decomposition dynamics, and hence carbon cycling and CO2 emissions. Although, much is known about the effect of drying at local scales, very little is known about its effects at the entire river network scale. Only studies done at an appropriate large scale can adequately inform and help to develop an adaptive management that minimizes drying impacts on river ecosystems and human activities. By combining meta-analysis, network-scale field experiments and modelling, MetaDryNet will explore the effects of drying on OM transport and decomposer organism dispersal to determine how drying affects OM decomposition and CO2 emissions in river networks. Using new technologies, novel ecological theories and complex modelling approaches this research is highly innovative and will allow to improve our understanding of how resources and biodiversity are linked in space and time in drying river networks. This project will contribute to advance ecological theories but also offer guidance for river management and conservation under global changes.


Net EU contribution
€ 184 707,84
75007 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 184 707,84