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Trout climate change refuge streams identified through extensive inter-agency crowdsourced databases

Posted date: August 12, 2015

Map of climate refuge streams for native bull trout.
Map of climate refuge streams for native bull trout.
FORT COLLINS, Colo., Mar. 2, 2015 On March 2, 2015, people around the globe will have access to high-definition maps that show streams that could serve as a climate refuge for two native trout species--bull trout and cutthroat trout--across 450,000 kilometers (~280,000 miles) of streams in the northwestern United States. Using crowdsourced datasets compiled from dozens of resource agencies, the Climate Shield project brings together stream temperature and fish survey data to create information for identifying critical watersheds and streams. The effort is geared toward conserving these species through the remainder of the 21st century.

While a major goal of this project is to provide climate vulnerability and native trout refuge information to land managers and policymakers, another goal is to provide open access to the information through a common digital database and project website so that it can be accessed and used by anyone concerned about native trout in the region ( The techniques and technology used to build Climate Shield are broadly applicable to other species and geographic areas and have shifted the paradigm of how natural resources research can be conducted. “The high-resolution digital information the study is the perfect complement to local knowledge, because it provides strategic maps that allow managers to put each stream in a broader context and make ‘apples to apples’ comparisons across landscapes in the northwest,” said co-author Dan Isaak, of the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Bull trout populations require especially cold streams to persist (photo by Bart Gamett).
Bull trout populations require especially cold streams to persist (photo by Bart Gamett).
This work is the capstone of nearly eight years of research on climate change and stream ecosystems by the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and many partner agencies. Two critical partners in this latest effort include the Northern Rockies Adaptation Partnership, which provided the forum for the fish vulnerability assessment; and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Northern and North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperatives that funded the NorWeST project to develop high-resolution climate scenarios from a comprehensive stream temperature database that was culled from more than 80 resource organizations (

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to You can also follow us on Twitter at




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