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Mapping climate refugia to preserve cold-water biodiversity using crowd-sourced databases

Date: September 20, 2016

Enabling precise mapping of critical habitats and species distributions in streams flowing through 101 National Forests


Background

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.

Cutthroat trout are a native trout species of conservation concern that persist in numerous headwater mountain streams. Photo: Mike Young, U.S. Forest Service.
Cutthroat trout are a native trout species of conservation concern that persist in numerous headwater mountain streams. Photo: Mike Young, U.S. Forest Service.
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 U.S. 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.

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.
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.

Key Findings

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.

  • Development and use of interagency databases facilitates better conservation and collaboration.

Additional Resources

These are websites related to this line of research, all of which contain numerous presentation, databases, maps, etc.

Publications In-Press

  • Young, M.K., D.J. Isaak, K.S. McKelvey, T.M. Wilcox, D.M. Bingham, K. Pilgrim, K. Carim, M. Corsi, D.L. Horan, D.E. Nagel, and M.K. Schwartz. 2016. Climate, demography, and zoogeography predict introgression thresholds in salmonid hybrid zones in Rocky Mountain streams. PLoS One

  • Young, M., D. Isaak, S. Spaulding, C.A. Thomas, S.A. Barndt, M.C. Groce, D. Horan, and D.E. Nagel 2016. Climate vulnerability of native salmonids in the Northern Rockies. U.S. Forest Service, Region 1. Northern Rockies Adaptation Partnership. Pages x-x in Halofsky, Jessica E.; Peterson, David L.; Dante-Wood, S. Karen; Hoang, Linh; Ho, Joanne J.; Joyce, Linda A., editors. Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-xxx. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

    Miniature sensors are used by many natural resource agencies to monitor temperatures in rivers and streams at thousands of sites across the western U.S.
    Miniature sensors are used by many natural resource agencies to monitor temperatures in rivers and streams at thousands of sites across the western U.S.

Featured Publications

Isaak, Daniel J. ; Young, Michael K. ; Luce, Charles H. ; Hostetler, Steven W. ; Wenger, Seth J. ; Peterson, Erin E. ; Ver Hoef, Jay M. ; Groce, Matthew C. ; Horan, Dona ; Nagel, David E. , 2016
Isaak, Daniel J. ; Young, Michael K. ; Nagel, David E. ; Horan, Dona ; Groce, Matthew C. , 2015


National Strategic Program Areas: 
Invasive Species; Inventory and Monitoring; Wildlife and Fish
National Priority Research Areas: 
Climate Change
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Air, Water and Aquatic Environments
Geography: 
Northern Region (R1); Idaho; Clearwater National Forest; Coeur d'Alene National Forest; Deception Creek Experimental Forest; Idaho Panhandle National Forests; Kaniksu National Forest; Nez Perce National Forest; St. Joe National Forest; Montana; Beaverhead National Forest; Bitterroot National Forest; Coram Experimental Forest; Custer National Forest; Deerlodge National Forest; Flathead National Forest; Gallatin National Forest; Helena National Forest; Kootenai National Forest; Lewis and Clark National Forest; Lolo National Forest; Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest; Rocky Mountain Region (R2); Colorado; Arapaho National Forest; Grand Mesa National Forest; Gunnison National Forest; Pawnee National Grassland; Pike National Forest; Rio Grande National Forest; Roosevelt National Forest; San Isabel National Forest; San Juan National Forest; Uncompahgre National Forest; White River National Forest; Nebraska; Nebraska National Forest; Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest; South Dakota; Black Hills National Forest; Pringle Falls Experimental Forest; Wyoming; Bighorn National Forest; Bridger-Teton National Forest; Medicine Bow National Forest; Routt National Forest; Shoshone National Forest; Southwestern Region (R3); Arizona; Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest; Coconino National Forest; Coronado National Forest; Kaibab National Forest; Prescott National Forest; Tonto National Forest; New Mexico; Carson National Forest; Cibola National Forest; Gila National Forest; Lincoln National Forest; Rita Blanca National Grassland; Intermountain Region (R4); Idaho; Boise National Forest; Caribou-Targhee National Forest; Payette National Forest; Salmon-Challis National Forest; Sawtooth National Forest; Nevada; Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest; Utah; Ashley National Forest; Dixie National Forest; Fishlake National Forest; Manti-LaSal National Forest; Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; Pacific Southwest Region (R5); California; Angeles National Forest; Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest; Challenge Experimental Forest; Cleveland National Forest; Eldorado National Forest; Inyo National Forest; Klamath National Forest; Lake Tahoe Basin Management Area; Lassen National Forest; Los Padres National Forest; Mendocino National Forest; Modoc National Forest; Onion Creek Experimental Forest; Plumas National Forest; San Bernardino National Forest; Sequoia National Forest; Shasta-Trinity National Forest; Sierra National Forest; Six Rivers National Forest; Stanislaus National Forest; Tahoe National Forest; Pacific Northwest Region (R6); Oregon; Deschutes National Forest; Fremont-Winema National Forest; Malheur National Forest; Mount Hood National Forest; Ochoco National Forest; Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest; Siuslaw National Forest; Umatilla National Forest; Umpqua National Forest; Wallowa-Whitman National Forest; Willamette National Forest; Washington; Colville National Forest; Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest; Olympic National Forest
Forest Service Partners: 
RMRS Partners/Collaborators:
Mike Schwartz (co-PI)
Charlie Luce (co-PI)
Kristine Pilgrim (technician)
Kellie Carim (technician)
Dona Horan (technician)
Dave Nagel (technician)
Sharon Parkes-Payne (technician)
Gwynne Chandler (technician)
Sherry Wollrab (technician)

Other Forest Service Partners/Collaborators:
Dave Peterson (PNW), Scott Spaulding (R1), Brian Staab (R6), Callie McConnell (WO) but also dozens of biologists, hydrologists, and regional leaders throughout the National Forest system in the American West.

All 101 National Forests in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 contributed data to build the databases for these projects. Most of the NFs are now using the science products from these projects for a range of conservation and management issues, NEPA consultations, ESA-consultations, forest plan revisions, and to address the Chief’s climate change scorecard requirements.
External Partners: 
Jay Ver Hoef (co-PI), NOAA-NMFS
Erin Peterson (co-PI), Queensland University of Technology
Seth Wenger (co-PI), University of Georgia
Steve Hostetler (co-PI), US Geological Survey

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.
Research Location: 
Idaho, Montana