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Thermal phenotypes and behavioural syndromes as predictors of resilience to climate change in European freshwater fish

Project description

A closer look at the changing behaviour of river fish

Fish, like many other species, are moving to higher latitudes to track their ‘climate niche’ due to global warming. However, fish in closed environments such as rivers have limited ability to track their climate niche since their limited movement between river catchments conditions their ‘behavioural thermoregulation’. However, little is known about how freshwater fish are changing their behaviour in rivers and how this makes fish populations resistant to the harmful effects of rising temperatures. The EU-funded THERMOS project will assess to what extent the behavioural thermoregulation of river fish is controlled by specific phenotypes within a pace-of-life syndrome that makes vulnerable populations resilient to climate change. The project will apply innovative methods to develop advanced predictive models to measure the resilience of vulnerable populations to global warming.


Predicting, preventing and/ or ameliorating the consequences of climate change is a major strategic objective of the European Union, particularly regarding ecology and biodiversity. Many species compromised by warming have shifted their distributions to areas of higher latitude to track their ‘climate niche’. However, the ability of compromised species to track their climate niche is constrained if their habitats are closed environments, such as river catchments whose physical boundaries inhibit species’ movements between catchments. Many freshwater species can thus only respond to warming in-situ. In fishes, fine-tuning of body temperatures can be through ‘behavioural thermoregulation’, where individuals use microhabitats that provide their preferred thermal conditions, assisted by rivers providing highly heterogeneous thermal environments. There is, however, a substantial knowledge gap on how freshwater fish are altering their behaviour and habitat utilisation in rivers that are warming due to climate change, and how this confers resilience to populations from the damaging effects of temperature increases. Through strong reciprocal knowledge transfer, and high complementarity between all participants and the proposed research, the research quantifies the extent to which the behavioural thermoregulation of river fishes is governed by specific phenotypes within a pace-of-life-syndrome that provides vulnerable populations with inherent resilience to climate change. The Action delivers innovative and novel research by bringing together a highly talented researcher with substantial knowledge in freshwater fish ecology with a European research group with exceptional expertise in fish telemetry and behaviour, and microclimate ecology. The high complementarity of all participants enables use of state-of-the-art and innovative approaches to develop novel predictive models for quantifying the resilience of climatically vulnerable species to global temperature changes.



Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
Fern barrow bournemouth university
BH12 5BB Poole
United Kingdom

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South West (England) Dorset and Somerset Bournemouth
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00