USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

US Forest Service
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Assessing Climate Change Impacts on Water and Fish Habitat in Washington and Oregon

An economic recovery project led by Gordon Reeves of the PNW Research Station builds upon existing efforts to develop a decision support tool that forest planners can use to assess the potential effects of climate change on fish habitat in the Northwest. Under a joint venture agreement, the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Oregon State University’s (OSU) College of Agricultural Sciences used economic recovery funds provided by the PNW Research Station to hire two full-time researchers and employ a faculty member part-time. This project will bring the results of global climate models down to the scale of river basins, and will help land and fisheries managers better understand which basins and salmon stocks are most at risk from climate change effects over the next several decades.

The potential effects of climate change on water and aquatic ecosystems are of major concern to federal land managers in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, and there is a significant need to develop tools, policies, and practices to address these effects. Initial climate change projections were of a coarse nature, often covering large geographic areas and failing to resolve features such as smaller mountain ranges that influence the expression of climate change on small scales. Without these refinements, features such as east-west temperature and precipitation gradients in the Pacific Northwest cannot be appropriately simulated, and attempts to use raw data from coarser models will produce highly erroneous results when considered at finer scales.

The objective of this study is to develop tools to understand the potential impacts of climate change on water and selected native fish and their habitat at the scale of a national forest. The initial phase of the study is focusing on pilot projects on the Wenatchee-Okanogan and Umatilla National Forests. These forests represent a range of geologies and climates and thus will respond differently to climate change. In support of this work, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group (CIG) will develop and provide detailed reports summarizing downscaled historic hydroclimatic data and simulations along with future hydrologic change scenarios for these areas. These models will be incorporated into an integrated system (NetMap) along with digital map layers and data bases that will enhance their utility for natural resource managers.

Significant progress has been made on two models for the John Day and Wenatchee River basins, one that predicts water temperatures, and one that identifies probable locations of spawning habitats. In addition, a Bayesian Belief Model (a decision support tool) of the effects of wildfire on Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout has been developed for the Wenatchee River. Finally, the scientists have completed an exploratory analysis of data on the impacts of wildfire on seasonal water temperatures. All these projects are components of a larger system that will allow the assessment of future effects of climate change on salmonids.




US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Tuesday,26July2016 at16:40:41CDT

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