Groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) include valuable ecosystems such as springs, wetlands, rivers, lakes and lagoons. The protection of these systems and services they provide is highlighted by international agreements, i.e. Ramsar convention on wetlands, and regional legislation, i.e. the European Water Framework Directive. Groundwater provides water, nutrients and a relatively stable temperature. However, the role of groundwater in surface ecosystems is not fully understood. The ecosystem can depend on groundwater directly or indirectly, and the reliance can be continuous, seasonal or occasional. This has implications for the vulnerability of ecosystems, as some may be easily affected by external pressure. Conceptual models and quantitative assessments of how groundwater interacts with the environment are needed. GDEs are also threatened by different land use activities and climate change. Hence, we need to understand how GDEs are affected by changes in groundwater quantity and quality, as severe groundwater changes have been observed in many regions. This study examines key aspects of GDEs (hydrogeology, geochemistry and biodiversity) in order to improve conceptual understanding of the role of groundwater in such ecosystems. The status and baseline of different types of GDEs are discussed, with particular emphasis on past evidence of environmental change and potential thresholds and threats in GDEs in various parts of Europe with different land use, climate and geology.
- climate change
- land use