Human effects on ecological connectivity in aquatic ecosystems: Integrating scientific approaches to support management and mitigation

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Nov 15;534:52-64. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.034. Epub 2015 Apr 25.


Understanding the drivers and implications of anthropogenic disturbance of ecological connectivity is a key concern for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Here, we review human activities that affect the movements and dispersal of aquatic organisms, including damming of rivers, river regulation, habitat loss and alteration, human-assisted dispersal of organisms and climate change. Using a series of case studies, we show that the insight needed to understand the nature and implications of connectivity, and to underpin conservation and management, is best achieved via data synthesis from multiple analytical approaches. We identify four key knowledge requirements for progressing our understanding of the effects of anthropogenic impacts on ecological connectivity: autecology; population structure; movement characteristics; and environmental tolerance/phenotypic plasticity. Structuring empirical research around these four broad data requirements, and using this information to parameterise appropriate models and develop management approaches, will allow for mitigation of the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on ecological connectivity in aquatic ecosystems.

Keywords: Climate change; Dispersal; Fragmentation; Meta-population; Migration; Source-sink.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*