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  • Wyss Academy

Stopping biodiversity loss in waterbodies – despite climate change

HUB BERN | Project LANAT-3

Our goal:

Our aim is to aid the conservation and restoration of biodiversity in waterbodies and strengthen their resilience to climate change through integrated restoration.

Dried out Emme river below the “Emme Birne” near Aefligen, during the dry period of 2018. Photo: Fischereiinspektorat des Kantons Bern (Fisheries Inspectorate of the Canton of Bern), Karin Gafner

In a nutshell:

The biodiversity of inland waters is even more threatened than the biodiversity of terrestrial habitats. Among other reasons, this is because the waterbodies are negatively impacted by a variety of use-related interventions including canalization, eutrophication, and hydropower generation. A compounding factor is climate change, which causes higher water temperatures and changes in runoff. Fish and other aquatic life particularly suffer. Restoration of waterbodies is a generational challenge: it encompasses activities and issues such as revitalization, tailwater remediation, bedload balances, fish passage, and hydropeaking in flowing waters, as well as reoligotrophication and oxygen balances in lakes. Instead of individual measures, efforts should focus on broadly coordinated, integrated restoration measures that more efficiently and cost-effectively achieve environmental goals and better account for present and future climate change impacts. For this, there is a need for baseline ecological data, experience, pilot projects, and success monitoring.

In the first project phase, the necessary baseline data will be compiled. The diversity of fish species will be captured at a spatially and taxonomically high resolution for the entire Aare catchment. Ecological niche modelling will be carried out to capture the needs of all species. The resulting models will be used to statistically determine what human-made factors, besides climate change, exert the greatest influence on the distribution of fish species. Using the niche models in combination with climate models, possible changes in aquatic biodiversity will be estimated. Finally, proposals will be developed for how to improve the situation and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In parallel, a participatory process will be launched with diverse stakeholders and target groups in order to jointly identify the need for action, prioritize corresponding measures, and implement them in pilot projects. By incorporating actors from research, administration, and practice, a shared understanding of solutions to challenges can be developed. The knowledge generated will be transferable beyond the canton to all of Switzerland.

The revitalized Emme near Utzenstorf with a flood protection dam (right) and new recessed bank protection measures (left). © Luftaufnahmen Röthlisberger,


In collaboration with:

Office for Agriculture and Nature of the Canton of Bern


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