Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Virginia Project

Development and Assessment of Tools for Evaluating Stream Fish Community Responses to Climate Change along Thermal Gradients

August 2010 - September 2012


Participating Agencies

  • United States Forest Service

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This project is part of a collaboration between several USGS and USFS scientists to examine effects of climate change on stream-fish communities and aquatic ecosystem services (AES), including effects via altered temperature, water-flow, and habitat regimes. The study will use existing data on climate projections, land cover, hydrology, hydrography, topography, and fish-habitat associations to model spatiotemporal changes in fish-community composition and the ability of watersheds to deliver selected ecosystem services. We will compare findings from two study basins: the upper Chattahoochee River (UCR) and the upper Roanoke River (URR). The work in the Virginia Unit will focus on mapping and analyzing AES. Focal AES include surface water supply, water purification, and water temperature regulation. This project provides partial support for Beatriz Mogollon (new MS student). OBJECTIVES: Specific objectives are: 1) estimate and map capacity and flow for each focal AES across watersheds within the study basins; 2) assess long-term sustainability of current AES delivery in the study basins; 3) work with stakeholders to develop and map plausible future scenarios of AES delivery, for use in conservation planning and land/water use decisions in the study basins. PROGRESS: We installed air and water temperature probes (continuous monitoring) in 30 watersheds across the URR. These represent a gradient of cold-cool-warm streams. Temperature data are downloaded quarterly, and water quality data are collected simultaneously. These data will be used to calibrate the models to project temperature and nutrient scenarios. We are coordinating with other collaborators to ensure compatible results from both study basins.