Development of a Streamflow Data Catalog and Evaluation of the Vulnerability of Sensitive Fish Species to Climate Change Across the Pacific Northwest

  • Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Idaho Department of Water Resources
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Northwest CASC
In Progress

As freshwater streams and native fish are threatened by changing environmental conditions, efforts to coalesce existing data and integrate modeling and projection tools are increasingly necessary for informing effective land, water, and species management. For example, identifying and integrating disparate datasets of streamflow, stream water temperature and species distribution is critical for development of statistical models that inform comprehensive, multi-species climate vulnerability assessments to help managers plan for the future. Regional assessments of the vulnerability of native fishes to climate change in the Pacific Northwest have focused almost exclusively on salmonids (a family of fish that includes salmon, trout, chars, freshwater whitefishes, and graylings) and left out many other at-risk native fishes. These salmonid-focused assessments indicate substantial climate vulnerability of these species across much of the region and highlight the need for consideration of other species in efforts to mitigate the effects of habitat change.

To address this need for broader vulnerability assessments, this project will synthesize scientific information and incorporate predictive models of in-stream conditions (water temperature and streamflow), paired with ecological data of expected fish species occurrence that leverages the expert opinion of stakeholders with technical knowledge of fish species not found in the published literature to provide a holistic understanding of stream conditions and their effects on aquatic species – an identified need for state regulatory agencies. A significant component of this project is identifying disparate, but potentially abundant streamflow datasets that are outside of the USGS gaging network. Currently, many streamflow measurements made by other organizations are not easily discoverable, which limits access and usability. This project will inform climate adaptation efforts in the Pacific Northwest by developing a catalog of existing, non-USGS measurements of streamflow, and assessing the vulnerability of rare fish species based on their ability to cope with changes in streamflow and water temperature expected under climate change.

This project leverages the technical expertise of U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, Boise State University and Virginia Tech research groups and is grounded in engagement of state, federal, and local stakeholder groups who are specifically challenged with management of the region’s water resources and native fish populations.