Columbia River basin researchers bring at least some good news to an ever
darkening picture of potential impacts to fish and wildlife from global
new research concludes that some refuge streams with high probabilities of
native trout population occupancy will exist for such species under both
moderate and extreme climate change scenarios. And knowing where those refuges
are will guide efforts to protect them.
“Climate Shield” study just published in the scientific journal Global Change
Biology uses the high-resolution “Norwest” stream temperature scenarios
developed from data contributed by more than 80 agencies with crowd-sourced
biological datasets to develop accurate forecasts about specific streams that
are most likely to act as climate refugia for native cutthroat trout and
ESA-listed bull trout across the Pacific Northwest this century, said Dan
Isaak, who along with Mike Young headed the research.
from previous studies of this nature is the level of precision with which we
can now make those forecasts due to the amount of data that’s been aggregated
for this effort across all 450,000 kilometers of stream in the region.
findings, stemming from eight years of research, provides detailed analysis of
the land administration associated with the refuges shows that 90 percent occur
on public lands (70 percent on national forests) but only about 15 percent are
within watersheds formally protected as wilderness areas or national parks.
it appears that although both species are likely to decline as warming
progresses, neither is likely to go extinct regionally even under the most
extreme climate change scenarios,” according to Isaak.
forecasting which streams are most likely to continue supporting the species,
the research may enable key watersheds to be better protected, help rally
support among multiple stakeholders, and provide a foundation for climate-smart
planning of conservation networks that could sustain broader species
distributions this century,” Isaak says.
of refuge locations could enable protection of key watersheds and provide a
foundation for climate smart planning of conservation networks,” the research
paper says. “Using cold water as a ‘climate shield’ is generalizable to other
species and geographic areas because it has a strong physiological basis,
relies on nationally available geospatial data, and mines existing biological
the approach creates a framework to integrate data contributed by many
individuals and resource agencies, and a process that strengthens the
collaborative and social networks needed to preserve many cold-water fish
populations through the 21st century,” the study paper says.
key dimension to the research has been development of a website to host all the
information as user-friendly digital maps and GIS databases so that the science
can be easily accessed and applied by managers & all conservation interests
for more efficient planning and investment, the researchers say.
research article, “The Cold-water Climate Shield: Delineating Refugia for
Preserving Salmonid Fishes Through the 21st Century,” was published online Feb.
27 by Global Change Biology.
author for the article is Isaak of the Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S.
Forest Service, Boise, Idaho. Contributing authors include Young of the Rocky
Mountain Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Missoula, Mont., and David E.
Nagel, Dona L. Horan and Matthew C. Groceit of the Boise RMRS.
journal article can be found at the journal web site:
find the link to the publication at:
a major goal of this project is to provide climate vulnerability and native
trout refuge information to land managers and policymakers, another goal is to
provide open access to the information through a common digital database and
project website so that it can be accessed and used by anyone concerned about
native trout in the region
techniques and technology used to build Climate Shield are broadly applicable
to other species and geographic areas and have shifted the paradigm of how
natural resources research can be conducted, the researchers say.
high-resolution digital information in the study is the perfect complement to
local knowledge, because it provides strategic maps that allow managers to put
each stream in a broader context and make ‘apples to apples’ comparisons across
landscapes in the northwest,” said Isaak.
work is the capstone of nearly eight years of research on climate change and
stream ecosystems by the U.S. Forest Service RMRS and many partner agencies,
according to Isaak. Two critical partners in this latest effort include the
Northern Rockies Adaptation Partnership, which provided the forum for the fish
vulnerability assessment; and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Northern
and North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that funded the NorWeST
project to develop high-resolution climate scenarios from a comprehensive
stream temperature database that was culled from more than 80 resource organizations
NorWeST webpage hosts stream temperature data and geospatial map outputs from a
regional temperature model for the Northwest U.S. The temperature database was
compiled from hundreds of biologists and hydrologists working for dozens of
resource agencies and contains more than 45,000,000 hourly temperature
recordings at more than 15,000 unique stream sites. These temperature data are
being used with spatial statistical stream network models to develop an
accurate and consistent set of climate scenarios for all streams.
been a lot of fun to learn and work through the process, but it’s also humbling
because so many people care so much about these species and they’ve been willing
to share much of their hard-earned data with us,” said Isaak.
said the stream temperature data alone contributed to the project would cost
$10 million to replicate.
big fish databases people shared would add millions more to that price-tag. But
the researchers were able to pull it all together with a small database team
and a few grants and now have the gratifying experience of serving ‘value
added’ information back to the people making on-the-ground decisions to protect
these species,” Isaak said.
Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of seven regional units that make up the
U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization. The station
maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing
the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and
administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and
watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas.
research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest
Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international
organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS
go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs or Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.