New Research Projects Will Monitor Effects of Climate Change on Freshwater Systems

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have announced joint scientific research projects that address the effects of climate change on freshwater systems and sensitive aquatic species in the northwestern and southeastern United States.

“Addressing the challenges of climate change will require new tools that enable our leaders to develop successful strategies,” said Vilsack. “This research will provide tools and information to help ensure that aquatic ecosystems in the Northwest and Southeast remain healthy in the face of climate change.”

“Conserving our nation’s fisheries and aquatic ecosystems will be a challenge as climate change continues,” said Salazar. “These collaborative research projects will provide the science and technology needed by the Interior Department and other natural resource managers to plan for coping with these challenges, especially in sensitive aquatic environments.”

Salazar noted that these projects are an early indication of the kind of science and management support that will be generated by the Interior Department’s regional climate science centers, which will be established in the Northwest and Southeast later this year. “Collaborative science targeted at managers needs is our agenda,” Salazar said.

The multi-year $500,000 joint USDA-DOI projects, which will be carried out by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) scientists, will make use of existing data, field studies and modeling to better understand the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems. Information from the project will help guide science-based land-use decisions by federal agencies and others engaged in long-term planning for climate adaptation.

In the Northwest, a region known for its abundant supply of cold and clean fresh water, the project’s goal is to identify how climate change will affect water temperature, quality and quantity, as well as the likely effects of increasing and more fluctuating water temperatures on coldwater-dependent fish such as trout and salmon.

Regional climate change will likely cause altered hydrology and water temperatures, vital components of water quality and healthy life cycles for species such as Pacific salmon, trout and chars, which depend on coldwater habitats. At the same time, little is known about existing and potential impacts of climate change for stream temperature in the Pacific Northwest. With a better understanding these factors – temperature and altered water flows – experts will be able to help guide land-use decisions by federal and state agencies planning for climate adaptation in the area.

In the Southeast, the project’s goal is to develop tools managers can use to minimize the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and the coldwater-dependent species in them, as well as on related ecosystem service such as drinking water quality and wildlife-based recreation. The scientists will refine and combine climate and hydrologic models for the region that will help resource professionals assess how land-use and water-management decisions will affect coldwater fish species such as brook trout, and the transition from coldwater fisheries in the mountains to warm water fisheries in the lower-lying Piedmont area.

source: USDA