|Sponsor:||Hinton Wood Products- a division of West Fraser|
Object & Deliverables
Cold water species are highly sensitive to stream temperature and are vulnerable to factors that can disrupt thermal and hydrologic regimes, such as climate and land cover change. Cumulatively, angling pressure and environmental change pose substantial threat to cold water salmonids in Alberta. Of importance provincially and federally are fishes such as the Athabasca Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus), and Bull Trout (Salvenlinus confluentus). In all cases, habitat degradation, over-fishing, and competition with non-native species has led to the declines in these cold water species. In addition to these factors, stream temperature changes and limitations in terms of thermal tolerance play a substantial role in governing native salmonid distribution and survival.
This collaborative project aimed to understand thermal conditions in watersheds located in the Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, and Red Deer River basins. These watersheds are instrumented with stream temperature loggers, representing a range of conditions. Stream temperature records were available through West Fraser Sawmills, the Alberta Conservation Association, and Alberta Environment and Parks. This vast array of data provided an opportunity to:
- Quantify the primary physical drivers of stream temperature in these systems at small and large spatial scales
- Determine spatial and temporal stream temperature patterns within and across watersheds
- Determine spatial patterns in thermal refugia
- Quantify the effects of forest management practices on thermal conditions
The final report was submitted March 12, 2021
We applied the statistical models across a large spatial domain, where stream temperature values were extrapolated upstream and downstream of field observations. As these values move further from observation sites, the accuracy of predicted values decreases. We believe our study results can be informative for understanding how stream temperature is influenced by stream morphology, climate, and landscape characteristics and how changes to these variables may impact water temperatures. The results of this study are also useful for informing management decisions by prioritizing monitoring as well as conservation/restoration efforts related to native salmonid habitat.
As a part of this project, a web application was developed to allow users to upload stream temperature data to continue to populate the dataset, run stream temperature models, and to then visualize model results. Future work will be done to increase the spatial extent of the model and improve the user interface of the web-based tool by allowing for some users to view and export datasets for use in other GIS applications. The goal would be to allow this tool to be available to the Alberta public and partners like Alberta Conservation Association, Trout Unlimited, AEP Biologist, Fisheries and Forest Managers. Fortunately, the project was highlighted in an online presentation on May 7, 2021 and a recording is available upon request.