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Aquatic Sciences

, 80:3 | Cite as

Longitudinal thermal heterogeneity in rivers and refugia for coldwater species: effects of scale and climate change

  • A. H. FullertonEmail author
  • C. E. Torgersen
  • J. J. Lawler
  • E. A. Steel
  • J. L. Ebersole
  • S. Y. Lee
Research Article

Abstract

Climate-change driven increases in water temperature pose challenges for aquatic organisms. Predictions of impacts typically do not account for fine-grained spatiotemporal thermal patterns in rivers. Patches of cooler water could serve as refuges for anadromous species like salmon that migrate during summer. We used high-resolution remotely sensed water temperature data to characterize summer thermal heterogeneity patterns for 11,308 km of second–seventh-order rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest and northern California (USA). We evaluated (1) water temperature patterns at different spatial resolutions, (2) the frequency, size, and spacing of cool thermal patches suitable for Pacific salmon (i.e., contiguous stretches ≥ 0.25 km, ≤ 15 °C and ≥ 2 °C, aooler than adjacent water), and (3) potential influences of climate change on availability of cool patches. Thermal heterogeneity was nonlinearly related to the spatial resolution of water temperature data, and heterogeneity at fine resolution (< 1 km) would have been difficult to quantify without spatially continuous data. Cool patches were generally > 2.7 and < 13.0 km long, and spacing among patches was generally > 5.7 and < 49.4 km. Thermal heterogeneity varied among rivers, some of which had long uninterrupted stretches of warm water ≥ 20 °C, and others had many smaller cool patches. Our models predicted little change in future thermal heterogeneity among rivers, but within-river patterns sometimes changed markedly compared to contemporary patterns. These results can inform long-term monitoring programs as well as near-term climate-adaptation strategies.

Keywords

Cold-water patch Intermediate scale Connectivity Water temperature Spatial patterns Refugia 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Remotely sensed river temperature survey data were provided by R. Faux, Quantum Spatial Inc. and D. Essig, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. We are grateful to the many local, state, federal, tribal and nongovernmental organizations that funded the collection of these data for water quality monitoring and assessment. We thank D. Miller, L. Crozier, and T. Beechie for helpful discussions, and B. Feist, S. Morley, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on the manuscript. Funding from the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the NOAA Advanced Studies Program supported this work. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Government. This article has been peer reviewed and approved for publication consistent with USGS Fundamental Science Practices (pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1367). Any use of trade, product or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

27_2017_557_MOESM1_ESM.docx (801 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 801 KB)
27_2017_557_MOESM2_ESM.docx (60 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 60 KB)

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Copyright information

© US Government (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. H. Fullerton
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. E. Torgersen
    • 2
  • J. J. Lawler
    • 3
  • E. A. Steel
    • 4
  • J. L. Ebersole
    • 5
  • S. Y. Lee
    • 6
  1. 1.Fish Ecology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science CenterNational Marine Fisheries ServiceSeattleUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Cascadia Field StationUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.School of Environmental and Forest SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Pacific Northwest Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceSeattleUSA
  5. 5.National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology DivisionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCorvallisUSA
  6. 6.Climate Impacts GroupUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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