Projecting spatiotemporally explicit effects of climate change on stream temperature: A model comparison and implications for coldwater fishes

Journal of Hydrology
By: , and 



Conservation planners and resource managers seek information about how the availability and locations of cold-water habitats will change in the future and how these predictions vary among models. We used a physical process-based model to demonstrate the implications of climate change for streamflow and water temperature in two watersheds with distinctive flow regimes: the Snoqualmie watershed (WA) and Siletz watershed (OR), USA. Our model incorporated a downscaled ensemble of global climate model outputs and was calibrated with in situ and remotely sensed water temperatures. We compared predictions from our processed-based model to those from a publicly available and widely used statistical model. The process-based model projected greater changes in summer maximum water temperatures for the mixed-rain-snow Snoqualmie watershed than for the rain-dominated Siletz watershed as a result of the near-complete loss of winter snowpack and significant reduction in summer flow in the Snoqualmie watershed expected by the 2080s. Both models projected generally similar future spatial patterns of maximum water temperature in the two rivers, with cool reaches distributed farther upstream and fewer in number. However, the process-based model projected higher spatial heterogeneity in water temperature due to our spatially explicit simulation of streamflow and because we calibrated the model with spatially continuous remotely sensed water temperature data. We used stream temperature projections to assess the vulnerability of Pacific salmon and trout to changes in the spatial distribution of cold-water habitats during August by the 2080s. Results suggest that salmonids may have fewer summertime cold-water habitats in both watersheds. Projected stream warming may further limit particular species and life stages, especially in the Snoqualmie watershed. Our comparison of models highlights the importance of considering what might be gained by using a process-based model for evaluating and prioritizing management actions that mitigate climate impacts on cold-water habitats for stream fishes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Projecting spatiotemporally explicit effects of climate change on stream temperature: A model comparison and implications for coldwater fishes
Series title Journal of Hydrology
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2020.125066
Volume 588
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 125066, 16 p.
Country United States
State Oregon, Washington
Other Geospatial Siletz River, Snoqualmie River
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