NW Climate Science Digest

Aquatic Resources, Stream Flow, Hydrology in the Western U.S.

Wetlands in a Changing World: Wading into Science for American Wetlands Month

Wetlands across the U.S. and around the world act as a crucial link between land and water, providing a number of services such as removing excess nutrients, pollutants, and sediment from water and acting as natural buffers to floodwaters. In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency established May as American Wetlands Month to celebrate the importance of these ecosystems. Understanding both the impact of climate change on wetlands and the role that wetlands play in adapting to climate change is a vital part of ensuring climate change preparedness. Luckily, scientists across the country are already examining these relationships. To support this scientific endeavor, several of the eight regional Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) have funded research projects that focus on ways to improve the methods and tools used in wetland research and to help shed light on how changes in climate might affect these invaluable resources. The results of these studies are often used to support planning and decision-making by natural and cultural resource managers. Keep reading to learn more about this work and to get a glimpse of some of the findings that describe what our future may hold for wetlands and their inhabitants. 

Warming Favors Invasive Fish over Native Trout and Salmon

Climate change is rapidly altering freshwater systems across the Northwest as air temperatures warm, patterns of precipitation and snowmelt change, and droughts and wildfires increase in frequency and intensity. Many species, including the Chinook salmon, westslope cutthroat trout, and native bull trout are at risk. Fortunately, managers still have a time to implement conservation measures with the potential to yield high future dividends. Here are three stories illustrating how climate researchers are helping.

The National Stream Internet Project: An Analytical Infrastructure for Data on Stream Networks

 Accurate, high resolution information does not exist for consistent status and trend assessments of water quality and aquatic biotas throughout the >3,000,000 kilometers of rivers and streams in the U.S. Without that information, prioritization of limited resources for conservation and management proceeds inefficiently. In recent decades, however, massive amounts of water quality, biological surveys, and habitat condition data have been collected by state, federal, tribal, and private organizations. In many cases, high-quality information could be developed from those data if a nationally consistent analytical infrastructure for data on stream networks existed. The National Stream Internet (NSI) Project was funded by the Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network as a national initiative grant to develop that infrastructure. The project has three simple objectives: (1) develop and refine free statistical software for the analysis of data on stream networks, (2) ensure compatibility between the stream software and the National Hydrologic Dataset, and (3) conduct a workshop with researchers and aquatic program leaders to brainstorm about national priorities and the opportunities that big data and stream statistics now provide for developing better information about aquatic resources.

Arid Ecosystems

Climatic Controls of Aboveground Net Primary Production in Semi-Arid Grasslands along a Latitudinal Gradient Portend Low Sensitivity to Warming

Mowll, W., D. Blumenthal, K. Cherwin, A. Smith, A. Symstad, L. Vermeire, S. Collins, M. Smith, and A. Knapp. 2015. Climatic controls of aboveground net primary production in semi-arid grasslands along a latitudinal gradient portend low sensitivity to warming. Oecologia 177: 959-969. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1007/s00442-015-3232-7


Although climate models forecast warmer temperatures with a high degree of certainty, precipitation is the primary driver of aboveground net primary production (ANPP) in most grasslands. Conversely, variations in temperature seldom are related to patterns of ANPP. Thus forecasting responses to warming is a challenge, and raises the question: how sensitive will grassland ANPP be to warming? Researchers evaluated climate and multi-year ANPP data (67 years) from eight western US grasslands arrayed along mean annual temperature (MAT; ~7–14 °C) and mean annual precipitation (MAP; ~250–500 mm) gradients. The researchers used regression and analysis of covariance to assess relationships between ANPP and temperature, as well as precipitation (annual and growing season) to evaluate temperature sensitivity of ANPP. Regression models indicated that variation in growing season temperature was negatively related to total and graminoid ANPP, but precipitation was a stronger predictor than temperature. Growing season temperature was also a significant parameter in more complex models, but again precipitation was consistently a stronger predictor of ANPP. Surprisingly, neither annual nor growing season SPEI were as strongly related to ANPP as precipitation. The researchers conclude that forecasted warming likely will affect ANPP in these grasslands, but that predicting temperature effects from natural climatic gradients is difficult. This is because, unlike precipitation, warming effects can be positive or negative and moderated by shifts in the C3/C4 ratios of plant communities.

Biodiversity/Species and Ecosystem Response

Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change

Pacifici, M., W. B. Foden, P. Visconti, J. E. M. Watson, S. H. M. Butchart, K. M. Kovacs, B. R. Scheffers, D. G. Hole, T. G. Martin, H. R. Akcakaya, R. T. Corlett, B. Huntley, D. Bickford, J. A. Carr, A. A. Hoffmann, G. F. Midgley, P. Pearce-Kelly, R. G. Pearson, S. E. Williams, S. G. Willis, B. Young, and C. Rondinini. 2015. Assessing species vulnerability to climate change. Nature Climate Change 5: 215-224. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2448

The effects of climate change on biodiversity are increasingly well documented, and many methods have been developed to assess species’ vulnerability to climatic changes, both ongoing and projected in the coming decades. To minimize global biodiversity losses, conservationists need to identify those species that are likely to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this Review, the authors summarize different currencies used for assessing species’ climate change vulnerability. The authors describe three main approaches used to derive these currencies (correlative, mechanistic and trait-based), and their associated data requirements, spatial and temporal scales of application and modelling methods. They identify strengths and weaknesses of the approaches and highlight the sources of uncertainty inherent in each method that limit projection reliability. Finally, the authors provide guidance for conservation practitioners in selecting the most appropriate approach(es) for their planning needs and highlight priority areas for further assessments.

Northwest Mountain Amphibians and their Changing Wetlands

Each year from Mt. Rainier to Mt. St. Helens the seasons run their cycle as the snow perched atop the Northwest’s majestic, high elevations melts, eventually winding its way to the Pacific Ocean. Along its gravity-propelled journey, this water fills montane lakes and streams, providing essential habitat for species such as alpine frogs and salamanders, while also feeding streams carrying young salmon—not to mention fresh water for towns and farms—downstream. Sadly, this process is now threatened by climate change, which has been diminishing the region’s snowpack. Especially imperiled are montane amphibians.

Climate Change Threatens Native Trout Diversity

Kovach, R. P., Muhlfeld, C. C., Wade, A. A., Hand, B. K., Whited, D. C., DeHaan, P. W., Al-Chokhachy, R. and Luikart, G. (2015), Genetic diversity is related to climatic variation and vulnerability in threatened bull trout. Global Change Biology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12850

Scientists have discovered that the diversity of a threatened native trout species will likely decrease due to future climate change. Researchers have found that in native bull trout, genetic diversity – critical for species to adapt to a warming world – is already lowest where stream temperatures are warmest and winter flooding is highest. These trends are predicted to continue into the future, suggesting that this imperiled species is more susceptible to climate change than previously thought. “Genetic diversity is extremely depressed where future climatic conditions may be most challenging for bull trout,” said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Ryan Kovach, the lead author of the report. “Together, these results highlight that bull trout may have little resiliency in a warming world.” The study, published in Global Change Biology, combined estimates of stream habitat conditions, current and future stream temperatures and flows, and estimates of genetic diversity patterns in 130 bull trout populations from 24 watersheds across the Columbia River Basin. The bull trout was listed as "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1998.

Recruitment Limitation of Long-Lived Conifers: Implications for Climate Change Responses

Kroiss, S. J., and J. HilleRisLambers. 2015. Recruitment limitation of long-lived conifers: implications for climate change responses. Ecology 96:1286-1297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/14-0595.1

ss and HilleRisLambers from the University of Washington recently published a study in Ecology that evaluated recruitment limitation of long-lived conifers forest ecosystems of Mount Rainier National Park, located in the western Cascade Range in Washington. Seed availability and suitable microsites for germination are likely to severely constrain the responses of plant species to climate change, especially at and beyond range edges. For example, range shifts may be slow if seed availability is low at range edges due to low parent-tree abundance or reduced fecundity. Even when seeds are available, climatic and biotic factors may further limit the availability of suitable microsites for recruitment. Unfortunately, the importance of seed and microsite limitation during range shifts remains unknown, since few studies have examined both factors simultaneously, particularly across species' ranges. To address this issue, the researchers assessed seed availability and the factors influencing germination for six conifer species across a large environmental gradient encompassing their elevational ranges. The researchers found that seed availability declined toward species' upper range edges for most species, primarily due to low parent-tree abundance rather than declining fecundity. Range expansions are thus likely to be lagged with respect to climate change, as long generation times preclude rapid increases in tree density. In all, our results demonstrate that seed and microsite limitation will likely result in lagged responses to climate change but with differences among species leading to complex range shift dynamics.

Relative Sensitivity to Climate Change of Species in Northwestern North America

Case MJ, Lawler JJ, Tomasevic JA (2015) Relative sensitivity to climate change of species in northwestern North America. Biological Conservation 187:127-133. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.04.013

Michael Case and Joshua Lawler from University of Washington recently published a paper titled “Relative sensitivity to climate change of species in northwestern North America” in the journal Biological Conservation. The authors used a combination of scientific literature and expert knowledge to assess the relative sensitivity to climate change of 195 plant and animal species in the northwestern North America. Results show that although there were highly sensitive species in each of the taxonomic groups analyzed, amphibians and reptiles were, as a group, estimated to be the most sensitive to climate change. Results also indicate that many species will be sensitive to climate change largely because they depend on habitats that will likely be significantly altered as climates change. Although to date, many climate impact assessments for species have focused on projecting range shifts, quantifying physiological limits, and assessing phenological shifts, in light of the results, a renewed emphasis on the collection of basic natural history data could go a long way toward improving our ability to anticipate future climate impacts. The results highlight the potential for basic information about climate-change sensitivity to facilitate the prioritization of management actions and research needs in the face of limited budgets.

Climate Registry for the Assessment of Vulnerability

The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center has worked with the non-profit EcoAdapt and other partners to develop a tool called the Climate Registry for the Assessment of Vulnerability (CRAVe ). This tool will house metadata on climate change vulnerability assessments from across the nation and will be made available for searching by the general public.

Climate and Weather Reports and Services

Decadal modulation of global surface temperature by internal climate variability

Dai, A., J. C. Fyfe, S.-P. Xie, and X. Dai. 2015. Decadal modulation of global surface temperature by internal climate variability. Nature Climate Change 5: 555-559.

http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1038/nclimate2605

Despite a steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), global-mean surface temperature (T) has shown no discernible warming since about 2000, in sharp contrast to model simulations, which on average project strong warming. The recent slowdown in observed surface warming has been attributed to decadal cooling in the tropical Pacific, intensifying trade winds, changes in El Niño activity, increasing volcanic activity and decreasing solar irradiance. Earlier periods of arrested warming have been observed but received much less attention than the recent period, and their causes are poorly understood. Here Dai et al. analyze observed and model-simulated global T fields to quantify the contributions of internal climate variability (ICV) to decadal changes in global-mean T since 1920. They show that the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) has been associated with large T anomalies over both ocean and land. Combined with another leading mode of ICV, the IPO explains most of the difference between observed and model-simulated rates of decadal change in global-mean T since 1920, and particularly over the so-called ‘hiatus’ period since about 2000. They conclude that ICV, mainly through the IPO, was largely responsible for the recent slowdown, as well as for earlier slowdowns and accelerations in global-mean T since 1920, with preferred spatial patterns different from those associated with GHG-induced warming or aerosol-induced cooling. Recent history suggests that the IPO could reverse course and lead to accelerated global warming in the coming decades.

Impacts of Climate Change on Electric Power Supply in the Western United States

Matthew D. Bartos & Mikhail V. Chester (2015). Impacts of climate change on electric power supply in the western United States. Nature Climate Change: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2648.

Climate change may constrain future electricity generation capacity by increasing the incidence of extreme heat and drought events. Researchers estimate reductions to generating capacity in the Western United States based on long-term changes in streamflow, air temperature, water temperature, humidity and air density. Researchers simulate these key parameters over the next half-century by joining downscaled climate forcings with a hydrologic modelling system. For vulnerable power stations (46% of existing capacity), climate change may reduce average summertime generating capacity by 1.1–3.0%, with reductions of up to 7.2–8.8% under a ten-year drought. At present, power providers do not account for climate impacts in their development plans, meaning that they could be overestimating their ability to meet future electricity needs.

What the Integrated Scenarios Project Says About the Northwest Under Climate-Change

The project is Integrated Scenarios of the Future Northwest Environment, a collaborative venture that brought together scientists from several separate Northwest climate research organizations. Integrated Scenarios’ goal was deceptively simple: explain what the latest climate science says about the Northwest’s future climate, vegetation, and hydrology. Getting the answer would take some doing. To get the best science to managers, a project was needed that was systematic, interdisciplinary, and, well, integrated. That’s because an accurate picture of a climate-changed Northwest would have to include not only computer-modeling the region’s climate but its vegetation and hydrology as well.

Anthropogenic Contribution to Global Occurrence of Heavy-Precipitation and High-Temperature Extremes

Fischer, E. M., and R. Knutti. 2015. Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrence of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes. Nature Climate Change 5: 560-564. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1038/nclimate2617

Climate change includes not only changes in mean climate but also in weather extremes. For a few prominent heatwaves and heavy precipitation events a human contribution to their occurrence has been demonstrated. Here we apply a similar framework but estimate what fraction of all globally occurring heavy precipitation and hot extremes is attributable to warming. We show that at the present-day warming of 0.85 °C about 18% of the moderate daily precipitation extremes over land are attributable to the observed temperature increase since pre-industrial times, which in turn primarily results from human influence. For 2 °C of warming the fraction of precipitation extremes attributable to human influence rises to about 40%. Likewise, today about 75% of the moderate daily hot extremes over land are attributable to warming. It is the most rare and extreme events for which the largest fraction is anthropogenic, and that contribution increases nonlinearly with further warming. The approach introduced here is robust owing to its global perspective, less sensitive to model biases than alternative methods and informative for mitigation policy, and thereby complementary to single-event attribution. Combined with information on vulnerability and exposure, it serves as a scientific basis for assessment of global risk from extreme weather, the discussion of mitigation targets, and liability considerations.

Coastal/Marine Ecosystems, Ocean Acidification, Sea Level Rise

Homeowners Prepare for Climate Change Along the Oregon Coast

By 2100, depending on the local terrain, sea levels along the Northwest coast will rise by anywhere from less than half a meter (1.5 feet) to as much as one-and-a-half meters (4.5 feet), according to current research. This means that by century’s end, the Pacific is likely to inundate the coast by as much as 50 meters (164 feet) in some places. The conclusion is inescapable: the Northwest’s coastal communities are at risk. But Neskowin residents and others in Oregon’s Tillamook County aren’t letting the dire projections drown their hopes. Instead, they’re adapting. And they’re getting some help from the Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC).


Will The West Ever Be Able To Live With Fire?

The summer and fall promise to extend a long run of worsening years for American wildfires — fires that are projected to be fueled more by climate change. The unique weather and landscapes of the American West usher in regular wildfires. Drought and heat wrought by stubborn ocean conditions have left great stretches of it dryer and more combustible than usual this year. Experts say the keys to adapting Western lives to these wildfire risks lie in how fires and the lands that fuel them are managed; and in how yards, neighborhoods and cities are planned, built and run.

Scientific progress and more than a century of living with wildfire have boosted Western resilience to the threat. But improvements in how wildfire dangers have been managed have fallen far short of the reimaginations of landscapes that are needed. “We’ve made good progress, but not good enough,” Jan van Wagtendonk, a retired Yosemite National Park forest scientist who has documented the evolution of America’s management of wildfires, said. “Much more is needed.”


Managing early succession for biodiversity and long-term productivity of conifer forests in southwestern Oregon

Bormann, B. T., R. L. Darbyshire, P. S. Homann, B. A. Morrissette, and S. N. Little. 2015. Managing early succession for biodiversity and long-term productivity of conifer forests in southwestern Oregon. Forest Ecology and Management 340: 114-125. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.foreco.2014.12.016

Early-successional stages have been truncated and altered in many western U.S. forest landscapes by planting conifers, controlling competing vegetation, suppressing fire, and focusing on maintaining late-seral species and undisturbed riparian zones. Declining area of early-successional stages may be reducing resilience and sustainability on landscapes that experience elevated disturbance related to future climate changes. In this study, two post-harvest early-successional treatments were compared to each other and to two mature-forest treatments using 20 years of evidence from replicated 7-ha experimental units in a southwestern Oregon forest dominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirb. Franco). Recognizing the importance of intentionally managing for shrubs and hardwood trees is particularly relevant at this site, because stand reconstruction and historical records indicate these species, along with knobcone pine, dominated the site for 40 years before the current mature Douglas-fir forest started gaining dominance. In contrast, the prolific natural regeneration of Douglas-fir after recent harvest and wildfire suggests that what comes back “naturally” in modern times will not allow this history to be repeated.

Climate Change, Mountain Pine Beetles, and the Future of Whitebark Pine

For many millennia, slow-growing whitebark pines have held a place of special influence in their rugged alpine communities. These hardy conifers often live for centuries, thriving in the rocky windswept environment near the tree line in the Rocky Mountains, Cascades, and Sierra Nevadas. In recent years, things have changed. Whitebark pine populations are now declining steeply throughout their range. Climate change, disease, and the mountain pine beetle (a native species whose numbers have exploded in recent years) are largely to blame. In recent years, the U.S. West has been banded with red stands of dead trees. Yet in the past beetle outbreaks were less disruptive. For ages, the mountain pine beetle has been in a state of equilibrium with its environment, acting as what’s known as a “disturbance agent”—recycling trees weakened by drought, fire, and disease and opening clearings in mature stands that support different species and increase forest diversity. However, climate change is now altering the environment in ways that favor beetle epidemics. When beetle populations are high, large numbers of beetles can launch synchronized attacks that overwhelm the defenses of even healthy trees. In these cases, large-scale outbreaks can occur that kill vast swaths of forest.

Tradeoffs between Chilling and Forcing in Satisfying Dormancy Requirements for Pacific Northwest Tree Species

Harrington, C.A. & P.J. Gould (2015) Tradeoffs between chilling and forcing in satisfying dormancy requirements for Pacific Northwest tree species, Front. Plant Sci., http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00120.

Many temperate and boreal tree species have a chilling requirement. Results from trials with 11 Pacific Northwest tree species are consistent with the concept that plants can accumulate both chilling and forcing units simultaneously during the dormant season and they exhibit a tradeoff between amount of forcing and chilling. That is, the parallel model of chilling and forcing was effective in predicting budburst and well chilled plants require less forcing for bud burst than plants which have received less chilling. Plants which have an obligate chilling requirement (Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western larch, pines, and true firs) and received no or very low levels of chilling did not burst bud normally even with long photoperiods. Pacific madrone and western redcedar benefited from chilling in terms of requiring less forcing to promote bud burst but many plants burst bud normally without chilling. Equations predicting budburst were developed for each species in our trials for a portion of western North America under current climatic conditions and for 2080. Mean winter temperature was predicted to increase 3.2–5.5°C and this change resulted in earlier predicted budburst for Douglas-fir throughout much of our study area but later budburst in some southern portions of its current range as insufficient chilling is predicted to occur. Other species all had earlier predicted dates of budburst by 2080 than currently. Recent warming trends have resulted in earlier budburst for some woody plant species; however, the substantial winter warming predicted by some climate models will reduce future chilling in some locations such that budburst will not consistently occur earlier.

Land Use

Farmers Paid to Let Their Crops go Brown at End of Season Because of Drought

Expecting a worsening drought season in late summer and early autumn, 13 landowners of agriculture properties in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley have agreed not to irrigate portions of their land from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 as part of a dry-year leasing program funded by the state Department of Ecology. The program — implemented in partnership with the seven irrigation districts and various companies making up the Sequim-Dungeness Water Users Association — is intended to conserve water and maintain surface water flows in the Dungeness River. Experts have projected record-low flows this year. “As irrigators, we are gearing up to be as efficient as we can with our delivery methods as far as the amount we pull out of the river,” said Ben Smith, president of the Dungeness Water Users. Washington Water Trust officials have $200,000 to pay to the 13 landowners to offset the cost of leaving their fields fallow during that time period. “It is a voluntary program where we pay irrigators not to irrigate for the last 30 days of the irrigation season,” said Amanda Cronin, Washington Water Trust project manager. The program is expected to be finalized soon.

USDA to Expand Investment in Water Conservation, Resilience across Drought-Stricken States

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest approximately $21 million in additional Farm Bill dollars to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought. These investments will focus financial and technical assistance in the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states (which includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah) to help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations

Special Reports / Announcements

2015 NW CSC Climate Boot Camp

This year’s camp is hosted by the University of Washington and will run from August 16th – 21st at Pack Forest Conference Center in Eatonville, WA.  The curriculum for this year’s camp will delve into Adaptation on the Wildland-Urban Interface. The extended application deadline is May 13, 2015 and applications will be reviewed on a competitive basis for a limited number of slots. For more information visit the website or, contact Arwen Bird, CBC Coordinator (email: birda@uw.edu, phone: 503.318.5104).

Senate Eager to Add more Money for Drought Prep

The Washington Senate Ways & Means Committee unanimously recommended Tuesday that $18 million be allocated to fight Washington’s drought for the remainder of fiscal 2013-2015 and for the state’s upcoming budget biennium 2015-2017. The new budget biennium begins this July 1. The earliest that the Senate can vote on this appropriation is Wednesday; the bill would go next to the House for a vote, and then to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. “It’s critical that we get this passed quickly,” said Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside and the bill’s author. The money will go to irrigation districts and public utilities for water-related repairs and improvements, digging wells, and pumping water from one location to another. And it will be used to lease water from senior water-rights holders to send to those who may need it the most.

U.S. Global Change Research Program Seeks Public Input on National Climate Assessment Next Steps; Comments Due June 15, 2015

A Request for Information has been issued, seeking public input on steps for the next National Climate Assessment. Effectively managing the risks of climate change requires the best available scientific information, continually updated to address rapidly evolving national needs. Building on the momentum of the 2014 National Climate Assessment report, the U.S. Global Change Research Program is conducting a sustained assessment process that enhances the federal government's ability to deliver timely, scientifically sound products in support of climate-related decisions across the country. This process also fosters collaboration among decision makers at the national, regional, tribal, and local levels. Through the process, scientists and stakeholders are working together to build the knowledge base and capacity needed to effectively integrate new scientific knowledge into on-the-ground responses.

Call for Abstracts: Sixth Annual Northwest Climate Conference

Abstracts for oral and poster presentations, as well as proposals for special sessions, are due by 11:00 pm Pacific on Friday, June 26, 2015. Submissions are requested for a range of topics related to regional climate, climate impacts, and climate adaptation science and practice. Presentations and special sessions that connect science to management decisions and the implementation of adaptation actions are strongly encouraged. Note that poster submissions are considered separate from oral submissions, meaning that a lead author can submit abstracts for an oral presentation as well as a poster presentation.

Taking Action

EPA Local Government Climate Adaptation Training Module Available Online

EPA has released an online training module to help local government officials take actions to increase their communities' resiliency to a changing climate. The virtual training, which lasts about 30 minutes, was developed with EPA's Local Government Advisory Committee. It illustrates how a changing climate may affect a variety of environmental and public health services, describes how different communities are already adapting to climate-related challenges, and links to a number of federal and state resources that can help communities assess their unique climate-related risks and opportunities to become more resilient to climate change.

Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Releases 2014 Highlights of Progress and 2015 Implementation Plan

In October 2011, the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force published the "National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate." It was developed by the Water Resources and Climate Change Adaptation Workgroup made up of federal agencies with responsibilities for water management. This recent report highlights progress made in 2014 implementing the National Action Plan and describes the specific tasks that federal agencies are planning to undertake in 2015. The work described in this report reports reflect a comprehensive, coordinated, and continuing effort by federal agencies to respond to the challenges for water resources management posed by climate change.

Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Matters

Salmon Harvest Cut this Year

Effects of climate change and the ongoing loss of salmon habitat came home to roost at this year’s tribal and state salmon fishing season setting process. The result was some of the most restrictive salmon fisheries ever seen in some areas. The Muckleshoot Tribe, which tracks salmon migration into the lake through the Ballard Locks, quickly realized the extent of last year’s low returns and took action to protect the remaining fish. The tribe sharply reduced or eliminated planned harvests, including culturally important ceremonial and subsistence fisheries. But by then most of the damage had already been done. Despite tribal sacrifices, Lake Washington wild chinook populations were further diminished and hatchery egg-take goals were unmet. The package of fisheries developed by the co-managers for 2015 reflects the reality of lower abundance and reduced fishing opportunity for everyone. Salmon management requires a balance between the needs of the resource against the desire of anglers.

Jamestown S’Klallam Reconnects Creek to Strait to Save Fish

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is starting to see the effects of this year’s predicted low water flow in the Dungeness River Valley much sooner than anticipated. Tribal natural resources staff discovered that the mouth of Seibert Creek had been cut off by a sandbar – a typical problem with the creek during a low water year. But this year’s low flows are more severe than usual due to the record-low snowpack in the Olympic Mountains. “We never consider low flows in the spring because we typically have more water coming down the creeks,” said Chris Burns, Jamestown natural resources technician. “But when McDonald Creek started looking really skinny, I started getting really worried and checked Seibert. “That’s when I found the pool of water behind the sandbar holding steelhead, coho and cutthroat smolts, plus an adult steelhead, with no access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.” The flow was too low to just push the gravel out of the way to reconnect the creek to the Strait, so a ditch had to be dug – about 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 20 feet long.

“Our Bodies and Our Spirits”

 Traditional foods are more than meals for North America’s Tribes and First Nations; they are a way of life. But due in part to climate change, these natural and cultural resources are at risk. Here in the Northwest, Indigenous communities and several regional climate research organizations are hoping to change that. Along the shores of Skagit Bay in western Washington and Vancouver Harbor in British Columbia, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Tsleil-Waututh Nation have teamed up with the U.S. Geological Survey, North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC), and the Northwest Climate Science Center (NW CSC) to pilot a project aimed at preserving the traditional resources of Tribes and First Nations as they face a changing climate.

Climate Change Disproportionately Affects Native Communities

Climate change is affecting people around the world, including Native American communities. KSFR’s Zelie Pollon spoke recently with Ann Marie Chischilly (Chiss- chilly), Executive Director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University, who works closely with indigenous communities on environmental issues. To learn more about this work go to the ITEP website at http://www4.nau.edu/itep/. To listen to the interview, follow the "interview" link.