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Data from: Current distributions and future climate‐driven changes in diatoms, insects and fish in U.S. streams

Cite this dataset

Pound, Katrina; Larson, Chad; Passy, Sophia (2021). Data from: Current distributions and future climate‐driven changes in diatoms, insects and fish in U.S. streams [Dataset]. Dryad.



Biodiversity on Earth is threatened by climate change. Despite the vulnerability of freshwater habitats to human impacts, most climate change projections have focused on terrestrial systems. Here, we examined how the current distributions and biodiversity of stream taxa might change under mitigated, stabilizing and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.


Conterminous USA.

Time period

Present day to 2070.

Major taxa studied

Stream diatoms, insects and fish.


We developed species distribution models for 336 freshwater taxa from 1,227 distinct stream localities using water chemistry, watershed and climatic variables. Models based only on climate were used to project changes in the distributions and biodiversity of cold‐ versus warm‐water taxa under representative concentration pathways (RCPs) ranging from 2.6 to 8.5 W/m2.


In all three organismal groups, climate emerged as the strongest predictor of species distributions, providing comparable explanatory power to water chemistry and watershed variables combined. The RCP‐based projections suggested a widespread expansion of warm‐water taxa, outpacing the decline of cold‐water taxa. Consequently, overall species richness would increase, but beta diversity would decrease drastically with the severity of climate change. A closer look at individual taxa and functional guilds revealed that vulnerable cold‐water taxa included: (a) diatom guilds forming the base and bulk of the biofilm; (b) environmentally sensitive insects, characteristic of unimpacted streams; and (c) ecologically and recreationally important salmonids, which were forecast to diminish dramatically in source habitats. Warm‐water fish projected to increase their distributions include bait bucket release minnows and dominant predators.

Main conclusions

Our results suggest potentially devastating impacts of climate change on stream ecosystems, with the restructuring of diatom, insect and fish communities, diminished distributions of functionally important taxa and widespread expansion of warm‐water taxa, giving rise to biotic homogenization. Given that the magnitude of these biotic shifts depends on the severity of climate change, appropriate current policy decisions are necessary to preserve freshwater ecosystems.


Water chemistry, watershed information and individual counts for stream benthic diatoms, insects and fish were gathered from the National Water‐Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey ( Climatic variables were retrieved from the WorldClim database.

Usage notes

Three datasets: diatoms, insects, and fish. Each spreadsheet contains data for taxa presence/absence, water chemistry, watershed properties, present day climate, and NorESM1‐M climate projections for each stream site in 2050 and 2070.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB‐1745348 to SIP