Large-scale patterns of northern freshwater biota

The number of biogeographical studies from freshwater ecosystems has increased from the early 2000s onwards. Understanding the large-scale gradients is highly important in northern freshwaters, which are especially vulnerable to global change. However, there is a clear bias in the studied freshwater biological groups at large-scales, as most of the studies have focused well-known groups, such as fish and macroinvertebrates.

Our work consists of various research themes and projects related to the patterns and processes of freshwater biota and how global change affects them. We especially focus on aquatic plants. We combine both empirical surveys and atlas data of freshwater biota with local environmental and regional biogeographical variables in explaining spatial and temporal distributions of different biological groups using modern statistical methods at regional and global scales. In this theme, we collaborate with numerous national and international fellow scientists interested in macrophytes, other aquatic assemblages and freshwaters. 

13.4.2018 Researcher

Jan Hjort

14.5.2018 Researcher

Janne Alahuhta

12.3.2019 Researcher

Olli-Matti Kärnä

16.2.2019 Researcher

Maija Toivanen

19.2.2019 Researcher

Marja Lindholm


Main objectives

  • To analyze large-scale patterns of freshwater biota and water quality at various spatial scales
  • To test biogeographical and macroecological theories using freshwater assemblages such as aquatic plants as a model group
  • To explore spatial patterns in freshwater bioassessment

Main collaborators

  • Dr. Jani Heino, Finnish Environment Institute, Oulu, Finland
  • Dr. Jukka Aroviita, Freshwater Centre, Finnish Environment Institute, Finland
  • Dr. Seppo Hellsten, Freshwater Centre, Finnish Environment Institute, Finland
  • Dr. Lars Båstrup-Spohr, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Denner S. Vieira, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil

Current Projects


  • Toivanen., M., Hjort, J., Heino, Tukiainen, H., Aroviita, J. & J. Alahuhta (In press). Is catchment geodiversity a useful surrogate for aquatic plant species richness? Journal of Biogeography.
  • Alahuhta, J., Erős, T., Kärnä, O.-M., Soininen, J., Wang, J. & Heino, J. (In press). Understanding environmental change through the lens of trait-based, functional and phylogenetic biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems. Environmental Reviews. DOI: 10.1139/er-2018-0071
  • Perez Rocha, M.P., Bini, L.M., Domisch, S., Tolonen, K.E., Jyrkankallio-Mikkola, J., Soininen, J., Hjort, J. & J. Heino (2018). Local environment and space drive multiple facets of stream macroinvertebrate beta diversity, while climate and catchment features are less important. Journal of Biogeography 45, 2744–2754.
  • Alahuhta, J., Lindholm, M., Bove, C.P., Chappuis, E., Clayton, J., de Winton, M., Feldmann, T., Ecke, F., Gacia, E., Grillas, P., Hoyer, M.V., Johnson, L.B., Kolada, K., Kosten, S., Lauridsen, T., Lukács, B.A., Mjelde, M., Mormul, R.P., Rhazi, L., Rhazi, M., Sass, L.,  Søndergaard, M., Xu, J. & Heino, J. 2018. Global patterns in the metacommunity structuring of lake macrophytes: regional variations and driving factors. Oecologia 188: 1167-1182.
  • Lindholm, M., Grönroos, M., Hjort, J., M., Karjalainen, S.M., Tokola, L. and J. Heino (2018). Different species trait groups of stream diatoms show divergent responses to spatial and environmental factors in a subarctic drainage basin. Hydrobiologia 816, 213-230.
  • Rocha, M. P., Heino, J., Machado-Velho, L. F., Lansac-Tôha, F. M., & Lansac-Tôha, F. A. (2017). Fine spatial grain, large spatial extent and biogeography of macrophyte-associated cladoceran communities across Neotropical floodplains. Freshwater Biology, 62(3), 559-569.
  • Heino, J., Alahuhta, J., Ala-Hulkko, T., Antikainen, H., Bini, L.M., Bonada, N., Datry, T., Erős, T., Hjort, J., Kotavaara, O., Melo, A.S. & Soininen, J. 2017. Integrating dispersal proxies in ecological and environmental research in the freshwater realm. Environmental Reviews 25: 334-349.
  • Alahuhta, J., Kosten, S., Akasaka, M., Auderset, D., Azzella, M., Bolpagni, R., Bove, C.P., Chambers, P.A., Chappuis, E., Ilg, C.,  Clayton, J., de Winston, M., Ecke, F., Gacia, E., Gecheva, G., Grillas, P., Hauxwell, J., Hellsten, H., Hjort, J., Hoyer, M.V., Kolada, K., Kuoppala, M., Lauridsen, T., Li, E.-H., Lukács, B.A., Mjelde, M., Mikulyuk, A., Mormul, R.P., Nishihiro, J., Oertli, B., Rhazi, L., Rhazi, M., Sass, L., Schranz, C., Søndergaard, M., Yamanouchi, T., Yu, Q., Wang, H., Willby, N., Zhang, X.-K., & Heino, J. 2017. Global variation in the beta diversity of lake macrophytes is driven by environmental heterogeneity rather than latitude. Journal of Biogeography 44: 1758-1769.
  • Vilmi, A., Alahuhta, J., Hjort, J., Kärnä, O.-M., Leinonen, K., Rocha, M.P., Tolonen, K.E., Tolonen, K.T. & Heino, J. 2017. Geography of global change and species richness in the North. Environmental Reviews 25: 184-192.
  • Heino, J., Soininen, J., Alahuhta, J., Lappalainen, J. & Virtanen, R. Metacommunity ecology meets biogeography: Effects of geographical region, spatial dynamics and environmental filtering on community structure in aquatic organisms. Oecologia 183: 121-137.
  • Alahuhta, J., Ecke, F., Johnson, L.B., Sass, L. & Heino, J. 2017. A comparative analysis reveals little evidence for niche conservatism in aquatic macrophytes among four areas on two continents. Oikos 126: 136-148.
  • Rocha, M.P., Bini, L.M., Siqueira, T., Hjort, J., Grönroos, M., Lindholm, M., Karjalainen, S.-M. & J. Heino (2018). Predicting occupancy and abundance by niche position, niche breadth and body size in stream organisms. Oecologia 186, 205-216.
  • de Mendoza, G., Kaivosoja, R., Grönroos, M., Hjort, J., Ilmonen, J., Kärnä, O.M., Paasivirta, L., Tokola, L. & J. Heino (2018). Highly variable species distribution models in a subarctic stream metacommunity: patterns, mechanisms and implications. Freshwater Biology 63, 33-47.
  • Varanka, S. & J. Hjort (2017). Spatio-temporal aspects of the environmental factors affecting water quality in boreal rivers. Environmental Earth Sciences 76, 21.
  • Kärnä, O.-M., Grönroos, M., Antikainen, H., Hjort, J. Ilmonen, J., Paasivirta, L. & J. Heino (2015). Inferring the effects of potential dispersal routes on the metacommunity structure of stream insects: as the crow flies, as the fish swims or as the fox runs? Journal of Animal Ecology 84, 1342-1353.
  • Varanka, S., Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2015). Geomorphological factors predict water quality in boreal rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 40, 1989-1999.
  • Heino, J., Soininen, J., Alahuhta, J., Lappalainen, J. & Virtanen, R. 2015. A comparative analysis of metacommunity types in the freshwater realm. Ecology and Evolution 5: 1525-1537.
  • Alahuhta, J. & Aroviita, J. 2016. Quantifying the relative importance of natural variables, human disturbance and spatial processes in ecological status indicators of boreal lakes. Ecological Indicators 63: 240-248.
  • Tolonen, K.E., Tokola, L., Grönroos, M., Hjort, J., Kärnä, O.-M., Erkinaro, J. & J. Heino (2016). Hierarchical decomposition of trait patterns of stream macroinvertebrate communities. Freshwater Science 35, 1032-1048.
  • Alahuhta, J. 2015. Geographic patterns of lake macrophyte communities and species richness at regional scale. Journal of Vegetation Science 26: 564-575.
  • Heino, J. & Alahuhta, J. (2015). Elements of regional beetle faunas: faunal variation and compositional breakpoints along climate, land cover and georgaphical gradients. Journal of Animal Ecology 84: 427441.
  • Alahuhta, J. & J. Heino (2013). Spatial extent, regional specificity and metacommunity structuring in lake macrophytes. Journal of Biogeography 40, 1572–1582.
  • Alahuhta, J., A. Kanninen, S. Hellsten, K.-M. Vuori, M. Kuoppala & H. Hämäläinen (2013). Environmental and spatial correlates of community composition, richness and status of boreal lake macrophytes. Ecological Indicators 32, 172–181.
  • Alahuhta, J., I. Joensuu, J. Matero, K.-M. Vuori & O. Saastamoinen (2013). Freshwater ecosystem services in Finland. 35 p. Reports of the Finnish Environment Institute 16.
  • Kuusisto-Hjort, P. & J. Hjort (2013). Land use impacts on trace metal concentrations of suburban stream sediments in the Helsinki region, Finland. Science of the Total Environment 456–457: 222–230.
  • Alahuhta, J., A. Kanninen & K.-M. Vuori (2012). Response of macrophyte communities and status metrics to natural gradients and land use in boreal lakes. Aquatic Botany 103, 106-114.
  • Alahuhta, J., J. Heino & M. Luoto (2011). Climate change and the future distributions of aquatic macrophytes across boreal catchments. Journal of Biogeography 38, 383–393.