Department Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling

Human impacts on the community composition of Swiss rivers

For effective river management it is important to understand the role of different human impacts and environmental stressors on the structure and function of river ecosystems. In this project we want to explore Swiss monitoring data to identify the cause-effect relationship between anthropogenic stressors, e.g. pollution from agriculture and urban sources, habitat degradation, hydropower, and the community composition of macroinvertebrates and fish. We will take into account environmental variables like height, temperature, hydromorphological conditions, and dispersal limitation that influence the occurrence of organisms. We will analyze different community descriptors as response variables like taxonomic composition at different taxonomic levels, trait composition linking to community function, food web-network-properties to identify most sensitive indicators. We will use different statistical approaches.

The project consists of two main tasks:

  1. The Identification of human impacts on macroinvertebrates and fish using different methods from multivariate statistics to identify influence factors on different community descriptors;
  2. detailed food web analyzes for selected sites to combine structural and functional aspects to find out how food web properties and feeding habits of fish and macroinvertebrates are influenced by environmental conditions and human impacts.

The overall goal of this project is to derive guidance for the identification of human impacts on the aquatic communities of Swiss streams.


Caradima, B.; Scheidegger, A.; Brodersen, J.; Schuwirth, N. (2021) Bridging mechanistic conceptual models and statistical species distribution models of riverine fish, Ecological Modelling, 457, 109680 (15 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2021.109680, Institutional Repository
Caradima, B.; Reichert, P.; Schuwirth, N. (2020) Effects of site selection and taxonomic resolution on the inference of stream invertebrate responses to environmental conditions, Freshwater Science, 39(3), 415-432, doi:10.1086/709024, Institutional Repository
Schuwirth, N.; Caradima, B.; Schindler Wildhaber, Y.; Sarbach-Remund, N. (2019) Analyse schweizweiter Makrozoobenthosdaten. Erkenntnisse über anthropogene Einflüsse und Monitoring-Design, Aqua & Gas, 99(12), 55-61, Institutional Repository
Caradima, B.; Schuwirth, N.; Reichert, P. (2019) From individual to joint species distribution models: a comparison of model complexity and predictive performance, Journal of Biogeography, 46(10), 2260-2274, doi:10.1111/jbi.13668, Institutional Repository


Dr. Nele Schuwirth Head of Department, Group leader Ecological Modelling (she/her) Tel. +41 58 765 5528 Send Mail