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Assessing Climate Change Impacts on Fish
In this lab you will use an interactive map tool to assess how rising stream temperatures could affect native fish of the Northwest. Click below to: (1) learn about the relationship between water temperatures, dissolved oxygen levels in streams, and the impacts of changing temperatures on native fish; (2) use an interactive map to see how stream temperatures are expected to change; and (3) assess impacts on native fish.
Step 1: Learn about and record the temperature requirements of bull trout, westslolpe cutthroat trout, and selected aquatic insects.
Water temperature has direct and indirect effects on nearly all aspects of stream ecology, largely because temperature plays a major role in determining the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved in water. Everything alive in a stream breathes oxygen so temperature matters.
Cold water can hold much more oxygen than warm water, so aquatic inverebrates and fish with high oxygen demands (the organisms native to the Jocko River) are found only in these waters.
When dissolved oxygen concentrations drop, species that need high concentrations oxygen—mayfly and stonefly nymphs, caddisfly larvae, and bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout—will move out or die, replaced by organisms like sludge worms, blackfly larvae, and leeches, which can tolerate lower dissolved oxygen concentrations.
Download the spreadsheet template by clicking here. Enter the data into Table 1 of the spreadsheet. For bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout record the upper limits for egg incubation, spawning, and rearing as well (see the example at right). Note that each notch on the temperature scale in the graphics below is equal to 1 °F.
Once you have all the temperatures recorded in °F in your spreadsheet, convert them to °C (click here for a calculator to do the conversion).
You can now look at stream temperatures using the interactive map to determine where bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, and several aquatic insect species might survive.
Step 2: Learn how to use the NorWeST Interactive Map website.
Click on the buttons below to open two separate windows in your browser, one with the Interactive Map, the other with the Help Document. Read the short help document so you understand how to use the Interactive Map.
Important Note: Depending on your internet connection speed, the map may take a while to load the various layers. You may have to wait 5 to 10 minutes for the stream temperature layers. You will know when they have loaded when you see streams color coded (see the two graphics below).
Without stream temperature layers.
Map will first appear this way until stream temp layers appear.
With stream temperature layers (note color-coded streams).
It will take a few minutes for these layers to appear.
Step 3: Use the Interactive Map to predict the future for native aquatic species in the Jocko River.
Once you are at the NorWeST Interactive Map website, and the map has opened, use the zoom buttons (+/- buttons in the upper left of the map) to zoom into the southeastern corner of the Flathead Indian Reservation (Lat./Long. numbers in the lower left of the map should be close to 46.88 and -114.21).
Your map should look like this:
Once you have zoomed in, click on the layers button (upper right of the top menu bar) and select the following layers:
Observed Temperature Points
2080A1B Future Scenario
2040A1B Future Scenario
Mean August Stream Temperature
Watershed Protection Units
The image below identifies the seven sites you need temperature data for. Click on the first of these sites on the NorWeST Interactive Map. (The numbers and red dots will not appear on your map, they have been added to the image to show you where to click.)
After you click, you should see a pop-up like this:
Note: It may take a few moments to load all the attributes.
If there is more than one point/line in the same location, your pop-up will have multiple temperatures for each scenario. You can navigate through these by clicking the arrows in the upper-right hand corner of the window.
The three scenarios are:
• Mean August Stream Temperature. (S1_93_11) - This is the historical composite scenario, which just means it is the actual 19-year average August mean stream temperatures for 1993 – 2011.
• Modeled Future Scenario 2040. This is a future scenario based on a global climate model prediction. It is an estimate of what the temperature will be in the year 2040.
• Modeled Future Scenario 2080. This is a future scenario based on a global climate model prediction. It is an estimate of what the temperature will be in the year 2080.
Take the first temperature for each scenario and enter the value into Table 2 of your spreadsheet.
In your spreadsheet enter a "Yes" or a "No" in each cell of Table 3 of your spreadsheet. "Yes" if you predict the species will be present and "No" if you think it will be absent.
Take a screenshot of the NorWeST Interactive Map of the Jocko and print it. Refer to your spreadsheet and use green and red magic markers to indicate each species' presence or absence on the map. For example, for Bull Trout at site 1, you can write "BT/2080" in red if you expect bull trout to be absent in that part of the Jocko River drainage in 2080, and so on.