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Drought and Aquatic Ecosystems: Effects and Responses

Drought and Aquatic Ecosystems: Effects and Responses

P. Sam Lake

ISBN: 978-1-444-34181-2

Jul 2011, Wiley-Blackwell

400 pages


Droughts are a major hazard to both natural and human-dominated environments and those, especially of long duration and high intensity, can be highly damaging and leave long-lasting effects. This book describes the climatic conditions that give rise to droughts, and their various forms and chief attributes. Past droughts are described including those that had severe impacts on human societies. As a disturbance, droughts can be thought of as “ramps” in that they usually build slowly and take time to become evident. As precipitation is reduced, flows from catchments into aquatic systems decline. As water declines in water bodies, ecological processes are changed and the biota can be drastically reduced, though species and populations may survive by using refuges.  Recovery from drought varies in both rates and in degrees of completeness and may be a function of both refuge availability and connectivity.

For the first time, this book reviews the available rather scattered literature on the impacts of drought on the flora, fauna and ecological processes of aquatic ecosystems ranging from small ponds to lakes and from streams to estuaries.  The effects of drought on the biota of standing waters and flowing waters and of temporary waters and perennial systems are described and compared. In addition, the ways in which human activity can exacerbate droughts are outlined. In many parts of the world especially in the mid latitudes, global warming may result in increases in the duration and intensity of droughts. 

Drought and Aquatic Ecosystems is essential reading for freshwater ecologists, water resource managers and advanced students.


1. Introduction: The Nature of Droughts.

2. Types of Drought and their Assessment.

3. The Perturbation of Hydrological Drought.

4. Droughts of the Past: Dendrochronology and Lake Sediments.

5. Water bodies, catchments and the abiotic effects of drought.

6. Drought and Temporary Waters.

7. Drought, Floodplain Rivers and Wetland Complexes .

8. Drought and Perennial Aquatic Systems: Plants and Invertebrates.

9. Drought and Fish of Standing and Flowing Waters.

10. Estuaries and Drought.

11. Human-induced exacerbation of Drought Effects on Aquatic Ecosystems.

12. Conclusions.



“This book provides a valuable source of information for both freshwater ecologists and resource managers.”  (Bulletin of the British Ecological Society, 1 June 2012)

“However, the extensive review of the global literature, combined with the thorough discussions of drought-related concepts and definitions, make this book useful for those working in aquatic ecosystems worldwide.”  (Austral Ecology, 1 November 2012)

“It is balanced across taxa, habitat, and continents, and provides insightful ideas to guide future research.  As such, it is an important contribution to aquatic science that is well worth the read.”  (Society for Freshwater Science, 1 July 2012)

“Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates and above.”  (Choice, 1 March 2012)

“Overall, it proves extremely useful to bring together the material in the core chapters with the fairly extensive contextual material in the surrounding chapters; no doubt this will benefit many researchers needing an introduction to this topic. There is no doubt that this book will be read widely and will likely provide a basis and impetus for numerous future research projects.”  (Freshwater Biology, 1 September 2012)

“This book is a major synthesis of what is known about drought and aquatic systems. It is balanced across taxa, habitat, and continents, and provides insightful ideas to guide future research. As such, it is an important contribution to aquatic science that is well worth the read.”  (Freshwater Science, 16 July 2012)