3 year Phd position - Freshwater Ecology

NIVA hosts a Phd opportunity in freshwater ecology within Euro-FLOW: Linking environmental flows to changes in river ecosystem structure and functioning mediated by water chemistry and biotic interactions.

Euro-FLOW is a European training and research network for environmental FLOW management in river basins. ESR 4: Linking environmental flows to changes in river ecosystem structure and functioning mediated by water chemistry and biotic interactions.

A MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded under H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017.

Application details

The application should contain a cover letter that states your motivation, a CV and supporting documents about your education and studies (i.e. transcripts, certificates) and professional experience where applicable and two references. 


Dr Nikolai Friberg (Nikolai.Friberg@niva.no) or Therese Fosholt Moe (tfm@niva.no) for more information.

Closing date: 30 November 2017
Post start date: February 2018

>> For more information, please visit University of Leeds ESR4

>> Click here for eligibility criteria and to submit your application

Project Description

Norway produces approximately half of Europe’s hydropower generated electricity and 70 % of Norway’s rivers have consequently changed hydrological regimes. While direct effects on biota, in particular salmonids, are well documented, much less is known of how changed hydrological regimes indirectly influence biotic interactions and ecosystem functioning. Furthermore, water released from hydropower reservoirs will often differ in temperature regimes, gas saturation and water chemistry compared to unimpacted rivers. This, together with changes in sediment transport and geomorphic process rates, that are inherent features of changes to natural flow conditions, will significantly alter the environmental conditions at all levels of biological organization, and it has profound implications for ecosystem properties. In particular, we are interested in how this combined impact of hydropower influences interaction among autotrophic components in river ecosystems and the cascading effects further up in the food web. We are furthermore interested in quantifying changes in ecosystem functioning such as metabolic balance, primary and secondary production and rates of decomposition, and to link these changes to alterations in flow, temperature, geomorphological processes, gas saturation and water chemistry. We expect to translate changes in ecosystem functioning to the provision of key ecosystem services such as a sustainable recreative fishing that is a key source of rural income in many parts of Norway. We envisage a combination of using existing data sets, new field surveys and experiments to disentangle these complex abiotic and biotic interactions in relation to hydropower development. We expect that the PhD student will study component parts of this complex in more detail than other parts, depending on personal interest and competences, as well as logistic challenges.


(1) To elucidate mechanisms by which changed hydrological regimes and environmental conditions influence interactions among autotrophic components; (2) To investigate the direct and indirect (biotic) effects of reduced flow on benthic macroinvertebrates and fish; (3) To investigate how overall ecosystem metabolism, primary and secondary production and organic matter decomposition are influenced directly and indirectly by changes in flow, related environmental conditions and biotic interactions.

Expected outcomes

 (1) Understanding of the main drivers of changes in the composition of autotrophic components and how flow can be managed to avoid direct negative impacts on cultural services from e.g. nuisance growth; (2) Quantification of how autotrophic components can indirectly influence ecosystem structure and functioning, and the provisioning ecosystem services (biodiversity, nutrient-cycling, secondary production of fish); (3) An ecosystem understanding of cascading effects arising from the interplay between flow conditions and biotic interactions that can conceptually be transferred to other systems.

Last updated 09.11.2017