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Individual Highlight

Mapping Climate Refugia to Preserve Cold-water Biodiversity Using Crowd-sourced Databases

Photo of High-resolution stream temperature scenario developed from data at over 20,000 sites and used to precisely map locations of climate refugia for cold-water species. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.High-resolution stream temperature scenario developed from data at over 20,000 sites and used to precisely map locations of climate refugia for cold-water species. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Climate change is rapidly altering stream and river environments across the western U.S. and may threaten the long-term persistence of populations of iconic cold-water species like salmon and trout. A Forest Service team sourced and organized data into a database that was used to develop high-resolution stream temperature scenarios with large biological monitoring datasets to develop models that accurately predict where native cold-water species are most likely to occur later this century as climate change progresses.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Isaak, Daniel J. Young, Michael K.
McKelvey, Kevin S.  
Research Location : Western US, researchers located in Idaho and Montana
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1025

Summary

Climate change is rapidly altering stream and river environments across the western U.S. and may threaten the long-term persistence of populations of iconic cold-water species like salmon and trout. Better information was needed to describe these threats and facilitate site-specific conservation planning and adaptation. Large amounts of biological and temperature monitoring data had been collected in previous decades by many agencies but had not been organized to create comprehensive interagency databases. New digital technologies provided an opportunity for small database teams to aggregate and organize those datasets so they could be used efficiently by the Forest Service and dozens of partner agencies.

Using a combination of websites, blogs, email chat, and file sharing software, a small Forest Service database team working on the NorWeST (Northwest Stream Temperature) project solicited copies of stream temperature data from hundreds of biologists and hydrologists working for more than 100 natural resource agencies. The data were organized into a database that was used to develop high-resolution stream temperature scenarios and the information is distributed in user-friendly digital formats through a NorWeST website. The temperature scenarios were subsequently used in the Climate Shield project with large biological monitoring datasets to develop models that accurately predict where native cold-water species are most likely to occur later this century as climate change progresses. The models revealed that many populations are likely to persist in headwater streams on National Forest lands that will act as climate refugia. Maps showing the locations of climate refuge streams for different species are distributed through the Climate Shield website and are widely used by many agencies and National Forests for conservation planning and management. Key findings include: Precise models can be developed inexpensively using existing data to identify climate refugia; headwater streams on National Forests provide extensive climate refugia for many cold-water species; and, development and use of interagency databases facilitates better conservation and collaboration.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Charlie Luce (co-PI)
  • Dave Nagel (technician)
  • Dona Horan (technician)
  • Gwynne Chandler (technician)
  • Kellie Carim (technician)
  • Kristine Pilgrim (technician)
  • Mike Schwartz (co-PI)
  • Sharon Parkes-Payne (technician)
  • Sherry Wollrab
  • Also, the >100 state, federal, tribal, private, and municipal resource organizations that donated their data to create comprehensive databases with the Forest Service for these projects. Many of these agencies are now using many of the science products from these projects for conservation planning and new monitoring efforts that is strongly coordinated with our efforts.
  • Erin Peterson (co-PI), Queensland University of Technology
  • Jay Ver Hoef (co-PI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-NMFS
  • Seth Wenger (co-PI), University of Georgia
  • Steve Hostetler (co-PI), U.S. Geological Survey