Pacific Southwest Region (R5)

Climate change and peak flows: Knowledge-to-action to help managers address impacts on streamflow dynamics and aquatic habitat

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
Oregon State University
Principal Investigator(s): 
Gordon Grant, Anne Nolin, Becky Flitcroft
Summary: 

What will the rivers of the Pacific Northwest look like in the future? Will they be stable or unstable? Will they have salmon or other species? Will the waters be cold and clear or warm and muddy? These questions motivate our study of the effects of climate warming on streams draining the Cascade Mountains.

Previous studies have shown that snowpacks throughout the Cascades are highly vulnerable to warming temperatures, readily changing from snow to rain, and melting earlier. Less certain is how these changes are likely to affect streamflows, particularly in streams that derive much of their flow from deep groundwater and springs. These groundwater streams, which are currently characterized by very stable bed, banks, and vegetation, are particularly sensitive to increasing peak flows in the winter. We want to know how changing snowpacks and increased peak flows are likely to affect these channels, potentially changing their suitability as habitat for threatened species such as bull trout and spring Chinook. Results from our work, which include field and modeling components, will be used to guide management decisions affecting these streams: how dams are operated, whether water suppliers need to worry about turbidity, and how we should manage riparian vegetation.

Project Status: 
Action
Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/23/2014

Coupling snowpack and groundwater dynamics to interpret historical streamflow trends in the western United States

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
Oregon State University
Principal Investigator(s): 
Gordon Grant, Mohammad Safeeq
Summary: 

A key challenge for resource and land managers is predicting the consequences of climate warming on streamflow and water resources. Over the last century in the western US, significant reductions in snowpack and earlier snowmelt have led to an increase in the fraction of annual streamflow during winter, and a decline in the summer. This study explores the relative roles of snowpack accumulation and melt, and landscape characteristics or 'drainage efficiency', in influencing streamflow. An analysis of streamflow during 1950-2010 for 81 watersheds across the western US indicates that summer streamflows in watersheds that drain slowly from deep groundwater and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. During the spring, however, watersheds that drain rapidly and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. Our results indicate that not all trends in the western US are associated with changes in snowpack dynamics; we observe declining streamflow in late fall and winter in rain-dominated watersheds as well. These empirical findings have implications for how streamflow sensitivity to warming is interpreted across broad regions.

Project Abstract: 

See more below

Project Status: 
Complete
Research Results: 

Coupling snowpack and groundwater dynamics to interpret historical stream flow trends in the western United States - http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg/pubs/13_Safeeqetal_HP.pdf

Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/23/2014

Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
UC Santa Barbara, US Geological Survey
Principal Investigator(s): 
Gordon Grant, Naomi Tague, Craig Allen
Summary: 

Water stress represents a common mechanism for many of the primary disturbances affecting forests, and forest management needs to explicitly address the very large physiological demands that vegetation has for water. This study demonstrates how state-of-science ecohydrologic models can be used to explore how different management strategies might improve forest health.

Project Abstract: 

Widespread threats to forests due to drought stress prompt re-thinking of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, we argue that maintaining forest health in the face of environmental change may require focusing on the forests themselves and strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress in the context of a changing climate. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include: a) thinning; 2) encouraging drought-tolerant species; 3) irrigation; and 4) strategies that make more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forest lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve tradeoffs with other downstream uses of water.

Project Status: 
Complete
Research Results: 

Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes - http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg/pubs/13_Granteal_WFFT.pdf

Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/23/2014

Forestry, Bioenergy, Greenhouse Gas and Land Use Economic and Biophysical Model Development and Analysis

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: 
Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon State University
Principal Investigator(s): 
Greg Latta
Summary: 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Economics Branch (CEB) analyzes cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in the U.S. and internationally. EPA relies on the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gas (FASOM-GHG) model for analysis of GHG mitigation from the U.S. forest, agriculture and bioenergy sectors. This project will involve model development, results interpretation, testing, analyses, and documentation associated with the forestry and bioenergy sectors and related land use in the FASOM-GHG. The overarching objectives of the project are to make the forest sector portion more flexible, able to simulate a broader range of alternative bioenergy and CO2 sequestration policies, and to simplify the basic model code to reduce compilation and run time.

Project Abstract: 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Economics Branch (CEB) analyzes cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in the U.S. and internationally. EPA relies on the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gas (FASOM-GHG) model for analysis of GHG mitigation from the U.S. forest, agriculture and bioenergy sectors. The model is developed and maintained by the FASOM-GHG team, with expert members at Texas A&M University, Oregon State University, the Nicholas Institute at Duke University, Research Triangle Institute, Electric Power Research Institute, Environmental Protection Agency, USDA and the U.S. Forest Service.

Project Status: 
Action
Record Entry Date: 
Tue, 09/16/2014

CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC)

Overview & Applicability

The CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC) provides quantitative data on carbon dioxide sequestration and building heating/cooling energy effects provided by individual trees. CTCC outputs can be used to estimate GHG (greenhouse gas) benefits for existing trees or to forecast future benefits. The CTCC is programmed in an Excel spreadsheet and provides carbon-related information for trees located in one of sixteen United States climate zones.

Summary: 

This Carbon Calculator provides quantitative data on carbon dioxide sequestration and building heating/cooling energy effects provided by individual trees.

National Climate Change Viewer

Overview & Applicability

The National Climate Change Viewer allows users to visualize projected changes in climate (maximum and minimum air temperature and precipitation) and the water balance (snow water equivalent, runoff, soil water storage and evaporative deficit) for any state, county and USGS Hydrologic Units (HUC) in the continental United States. USGS HUCs are hierarchical units associated with watersheds and analogous to states and counties that span multistate areas. HUC levels 2, 4 and 8 are used in the viewer.

Summary: 

This viewer allows users to visualize past and projected changes in climate and the water balance for any state, county and USGS Hydrologic Unit.

Our Forests, Our Solutions: How Climate Change Affects Forests

Storyboard from the video

Climate change means changes for the nation's forests. This introductory video describes some of the changes that are occurring and that are expected as the planet warms.

Presenter: 
The Climate Change Resource Center
Publication date: 
07/25/2014

Watershed Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP)

Overview & Applicability

The Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP), is a physically-based soil erosion prediction technology. WEPP has a number of customized interfaces developed for common applications such as roads, managed forests, forests following wildfire, and rangelands. It also has a large database of cropland soils and vegetation scenarios. The WEPP model is a distributed parameter, continuous simulation model, and is able to describe a given erosion concern in great detail for an experienced user.

Summary: 

The WEPP model consists of multiple applications that can estimate erosion and sediment processes on hillslopes and small watersheds, taking into account climate, land use, site disturbances, vegetation, and soil properties.

National Climate Assessment 2014

This peer-reviewed report is a thorough and comprehensive overview of how climate change is expected to affect the United States. It includes analyses of impacts on seven sectors – human health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, and ecosystems. The report also assesses U.S. regional impacts and outlines some climate adaptation efforts.

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