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Charles H. Luce

Charlie Luce - Research Hydrologist

Research Hydrologist

322 East Front Street, Suite 401
Boise, ID 83702
Contact Charles H. Luce

Current Research

  1. Effects of climate change and wildfire on streamflows and forest and aquatic ecology.
  2. Integrated management of fuels and aquatic ecosystems with fewer conflicts over tradeoffs between fuels management and endangered fish and better solutions through conjunctive management of forest and aquatic resources at the sub-basin scale.
  3. Effects of wildfire and climate change on stream temperature and Bull Trout distributions.
  4. Monitoring forest roads and best management practices.
  5. Appropriate and cost effective solutions to water supply and aquatic habitat issues brought about by a changing climate and increased demands.
  6. Improved ability to manage water through forecast knowledge and improved prioritization of mitigation for aquatic ecosystems.
  7. A lower impact, lower cost, and safer road system.

See also:

Research Interests

  1. Climate change effect pathways on stream and forest ecosystems
  2. Ecohydrology of climate extremes
  3. Scaling hydrologic, geomorphic, and coupled ecological processes
  4. Snow hydrology
  5. Forest road effects on hydrology, slope stability, and erosion.

RMRS Scientist Profile Video (YouTube) - Dr. Luce describes 30 years of research looking at sediment from forest roads and the development of the GRAIP (Geomorphic Roads Analysis and Inventory Package) tool.

Past Research

Water flows through the landscape, giving it shape and life. Water is important to people for basic sustenance, economic production, and quality of life. Much of what people do on the land and to the atmosphere affects different parts of the water cycle, including precipitation, snowpack, evaporation, or streamflow. We also have substantial effects on water quality. Regulating our own influences on water requires understanding connections between what we do and the outcomes to the hydrologic cycle. It also requires understanding how changes to the water cycle affect our forests and streams. Substantial work has been done by many scientists over the years to understand the hydrology and ecology of forest ecosystems, particularly aimed at reducing the impacts of forest management on watershed values, such as clean water and healthy fish populations. As the world changes there is a heightened need to comprehend the magnitude and pathways of consequences to people and ecosystems, and to organize a response. There are many questions about what we can do that might be effective in the face of the kinds of changes we are seeing, and there is a much greater recognition of the role of hydrologic changes affecting both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Multifaceted research on how climate change affects water, how those changes affect forests and streams, and what we can do with forest, watershed, and water management to sustain a reliable, clean water supply is some of the most critical research we do.

Why This Research is Important

Current research builds off of past projects on spatial heterogeneity in snow accumulation and melt, runoff and erosion from forest roads, climate modeling, and fire effects.


  • University of Washington, B.S., Forest Management, 1986
  • University of Washington, M.S., Forest Hydrology, 1990
  • Utah State University, Ph.D., Civil Engineering, 2000
  • Awards

    Individual Research Highlight, 2011
    Evaluating the Effects of Climate Change on Streamflow

    Featured Publications


    Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Luce, Charles H.; Patel-Weynand, Toral, 2019. Effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the United States: translating science into management responses
    Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Luce, Charles H.; Patel-Weynand, Toral, 2019. Executive Summary
    Luce, Charles H.; Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Patel-Weynand, Toral, 2019. Managing Effects of Drought: Introduction and Definition of Key Terms and Concepts
    Vose, James M.; Peterson, David L.; Luce, Charles H., 2019. Managing Effects of Drought: Key Messages and Conclusions
    Holden, Zachary A.; Swanson, Alan; Luce, Charles H.; Jolly, William M.; Maneta, Marco; Oyler, Jared W.; Warren, Dyer A.; Parsons, Russell A.; Affleck, David, 2018. Decreasing fire season precipitation increased recent western US forest wildfire activity
    Muir, Mark J.; Luce, Charles H.; Gurrieri, Joseph T.; Matyjasik, Marek; Bruggink, Jeffrey L.; Weems, Stacey L.; Hurja, James C.; Marr, David B.; Leahy, Sarah D., 2018. Effects of climate change on hydrology, water resources, and soil [Chapter 4]
    Vose, J.M.; Peterson, D.L.; Domke, G.M.; Fettig, C.J.; Joyce, Linda A.; Keane II, Robert E.; Luce, Charles H.; Prestemon, J.P; Band, L.E.; Clark, J.S.; Cooley, N.E.; D’Amato, A.; Halofsky, J.E., 2018. Forests
    Isaak, Daniel J.; Luce, Charles H.; Horan, Dona; Chandler, Gwynne L.; Wollrab, Sherry P.; Nagel, David E., 2018. Global warming of salmon and trout rivers in the northwestern U.S.: Road to ruin or path through purgatory?
    Leasure, Douglas R.; Wenger, Seth J.; Chelgren, Nathan D.; Neville, Helen M.; Dauwalter, Daniel C.; Bjork, Robin; Fesenmyer, Kurt A.; Dunham, Jason B.; Peacock, Mary M.; Luce, Charles H.; Lute, Abby C.; Isaak, Daniel J., 2018. Hierarchical multi-population viability analysis
    Isaak, Daniel J.; Luce, Charles H.; Chandler, Gwynne L.; Horan, Dona; Wollrab, Sherry P., 2018. Principal components of thermal regimes in mountain river networks
    Penaluna, Brooke E.; Reeves, Gordon H.; Barnett, Zanethia; Bisson, Peter A.; Buffington, John M.; Dolloff, Andy; Flitcroft, Rebecca; Luce, Charles H.; Nislow, Keith; Rothlisberger, John; Warren, Mel. , 2018. Using natural disturbance and portfolio concepts to guide aquatic-riparian ecosystem management
    Clifton, Caty F.; Day, Kate T.; Dello, Kathie; Grant, Gordon E.; Halofsky, Jessica E.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Luce, Charles H.; Safeeq, Mohammad; Staab, Brian P.; Stevenson, John, 2017. Climate change and hydrology in the Blue Mountains [Chapter 3]
    Clifton, Caty F.; Day, Kate T.; Grant, Gordon E.; Halofsky, Jessica E.; Luce, Charles H.; Staab, Brian P., 2017. Climate change, water resources, and roads in the Blue Mountains [Chapter 4]
    Isaak, Daniel J.; Wenger, Seth J.; Peterson, Erin E.; Ver Hoef, Jay M.; Nagel, David E.; Luce, Charles H.; Hostetler, Steven W.; Dunham, Jason B.; Roper, Brett B.; Wollrab, Sherry P.; Chandler, Gwynne L.; Horan, Dona; Payne (Parkes) , Sharon L., 2017. The NorWeST summer stream temperature model and scenarios for the western U.S.: A crowd-sourced database and new geospatial tools foster a user community and predict broad climate warming of rivers and streams
    Littell, Jeremy S.; Peterson, David L.; Riley, Karin; Liu, Yongqiang; Luce, Charles H., 2016. A review of the relationships between drought and forest fire in the United States
    Luce, Charles H.; Pederson, Neil; Campbell, John; Millar, Connie; Kormos, Patrick; Vose, James M.; Woods, Ross, 2016. Characterizing drought for forested landscapes and streams
    Luce, Charles H.; Vose, James M.; Pederson, Neil; Campbell, John; Millar, Connie; Kormos, Patrick; Woods, Ross, 2016. Contributing factors for drought in United States forest ecosystems under projected future climates and their uncertainty
    Vose, James M.; Miniat, Chelcy Ford; Luce, Charles H., 2016. Ecohydrological implications of drought
    Vose, James; Clark, J.S.; Luce, Charles H.; Patel-Weynand, Toral eds., 2016. Effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the United States: a comprehensive science synthesis
    Isaak, Daniel J.; Young, Michael K.; Luce, Charles H.; Hostetler, Steven W.; Wenger, Seth J.; Peterson, Erin E.; Ver Hoef, Jay M.; Groce, Matthew C.; Horan, Dona; Nagel, David E., 2016. Slow climate velocities of mountain streams portend their role as refugia for cold-water biodiversity
    Kormos, Patrick R.; Luce, Charles H.; Wenger, Seth J.; Berghuijs, Wouter R., 2016. Trends and sensitivities of low streamflow extremes to discharge timing and magnitude in Pacific Northwest mountain streams
    Ryan, Michael G.; Vose, James M.; Hanson, Paul J.; Iverson, Louis R.; Miniat, Chelcy F.; Luce, Charles H.; Band, Lawrence E.; Klein, Steven L.; McKenzie, Don; Wear, David N., 2014. Forest processes [Chapter 3]
    Luce, Charles H.; Staab, Brian; Kramer, Marc; Wenger, Seth; Isaak, Daniel J.; McConnell, Callie, 2014. Sensitivity of summer stream temperatures to climate variability in the Pacific Northwest
    Eiriksson, David; Whitson, Michael; Luce, Charles H.; Marshall, Hans Peter; Bradford, John; Benner, Shawn G.; Black, Thomas A.; Hetrick, Hank; McNamara, James P., 2013. An evaluation of the hydrologic relevance of lateral flow in snow at hillslope and catchment scales
    Maturana, Oscar; Tonina, Daniele; McKean, James (Jim) A.; Buffington, John M.; Luce, Charles H.; Caamano, Diego, 2013. Modeling the effects of pulsed versus chronic sand inputs on salmonid spawning habitat in a low-gradient gravel-bed river
    Goode, Jaime R.; Buffington, John M.; Tonina, Daniele; Isaak, Daniel J.; Thurow, Russ F.; Wenger, Seth; Nagel, David E.; Luce, Charles H.; Tetzlaff, Doerthe; Soulsby, Chris, 2013. Potential effects of climate change on streambed scour and risks to salmonid survival in snow-dominated mountain basins
    Wenger, Seth J.; Som, Nicholas A.; Dauwalter, Daniel C.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Neville, Helen M.; Luce, Charles H.; Dunham, Jason B.; Young, Michael K.; Fausch, Kurt D.; Rieman, Bruce E., 2013. Probabilistic accounting of uncertainty in forecasts of species distributions under climate change
    Matonis, Megan; Luce, Charles H.; Holden, Zack; Morgan, Penny; Heyerdahl, Emily K., 2013. Science You Can Use Bulletin: Our forests in the [water] balance
    Gariglio, Frank P.; Tonina, Daniele; Luce, Charles H., 2013. Spatio-temporal variability of hyporheic exchange through a pool-riffle-pool sequence
    Vose, James M.; Ford, Chelcy R.; Laseter, Stephanie; Dymond, Salli; Sun, Ge; Adams, Mary Beth; Sebestyen, Stephen; Campbell, John; Luce, Charles H.; Amatya, Devendra; Elder, Kelly J.; Heartsill Scalley, Tamara, 2012. Can forest watershed management mitigate climate change effects on water resources
    Vose, James M.; Ford, Chelcy R.; Laseter, Stephanie; Dymond, Salli; Sun, GE; Adams, Mary Beth; Sebestyen, Stephen; Campbell, John; Luce, Charles H.; Amatya, Devendra; Elder, Kelly J.; Heartsill-Scalley, Tamara, 2012. Can forest watershed management mitigate climate change impacts on water resources?
    Luce, Charles H.; Morgan, Penny; Dwire, Kathleen A.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Holden, Zachary; Rieman, Bruce, 2012. Climate change, forests, fire, water, and fish: Building resilient landscapes, streams, and managers
    Black, Thomas A.; Cissel, Richard M.; Luce, Charles H., 2012. The Geomorphic Road Analysis and Inventory Package (GRAIP) Volume 1: Data Collection Method
    Cissel, Richard M.; Black, Thomas A.; Schreuders, Kimberly A. T.; Prasad, Ajay; Luce, Charles H.; Tarboton, David G.; Nelson, Nathan, 2012. The Geomorphic Road Analysis and Inventory Package (GRAIP) Volume 2: Office Procedures
    Dillon, Gregory K.; Holden, Zachery A.; Morgan, Penelope; Crimmins, Michael A.; Heyerdahl, Emily K.; Luce, Charles H., 2011. Both topography and climate affected forest and woodland burn severity in two regions of the western US, 1984 to 2006
    Holden, Zachary A.; Abatzoglou, John T.; Luce, Charles H.; Baggett, L. Scott, 2011. Empirical downscaling of daily minimum air temperature at very fine resolutions in complex terrain
    Wenger, Seth J.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Luce, Charles H.; Neville, Helen M.; Fausch, Kurt D.; Dunham, Jason B.; Dauwalter, Daniel C.; Young, Michael K.; Elsner, Marketa M.; Rieman, Bruce E.; Hamlet, Alan F.; Williams, Jack E., 2011. Flow regime, temperature, and biotic interactions drive differential declines of trout species under climate change [includes Supporting Information]
    Wenger, Seth J.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Dunham, Jason B.; Fausch, Kurt D.; Luce, Charles H.; Neville, Helen M.; Rieman, Bruce E.; Young, Michael K.; Nagel, David E.; Horan, Dona; Chandler, Gwynne L., 2011. Role of climate and invasive species in structuring trout distributions in the interior Columbia River Basin, USA
    Isaak, Daniel J.; Luce, Charles H.; Rieman, Bruce E.; Nagel, David E.; Peterson, Erin E.; Horan, Dona; Payne (Parkes) , Sharon L.; Chandler, Gwynne L., 2010. Effects of climate change and wildfire on stream temperatures and salmonid thermal habitat in a mountain river network
    Troendle, Charles A.; MacDonald, Lee H.; Luce, Charles H.; Larsen, I. J., 2010. Fuel management and water yield
    Rieman, Bruce E.; Hessburg, Paul F.; Luce, Charles H.; Dare, Matthew R., 2010. Wildfire and management of forests and native fishes: Conflict or opportunity for convergent solutions?
    Tonina, Daniele; Luce, Charles H.; Rieman, Bruce; Buffington, John M.; Goodwin, Peter; Clayton, Stephen R.; Ali, Shawkat Md.; Barry, Jeffrey J.; Berenbrock, Charles, 2008. Hydrological response to timber harvest in northern Idaho: Implications for channel scour and persistence of salmonids
    Rieman, Bruce E.; Isaak, Daniel J.; Adams, Susan; Horan, Dona; Nagel, David E.; Luce, Charles H.; Myers, Deborah, 2007. Anticipated climate warming effects on bull trout habitats and populations across the interior Columbia River basin
    Prasad, Ajay; Tarboton, David G.; Luce, Charles H.; Black, Thomas A., 2005. A GIS tool to analyze forest road sediment production and stream impacts
    Luce, Charles H.; Black, Thomas A., 2001. Spatial and temporal patterns in erosion from forest roads
    Luce, Charles H.; Black, Thomas A., 1999. Sediment production from forest roads in western Oregon
    Elliot, William J.; Foltz, R. B.; Luce, Charles H., 1995. Validation of Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model for low-volume forest roads
    Photo of a forest fire
    The number and size of large wildfires have increased dramatically in the western United States during the past three decades. Prior understanding was that the increase in fires was mainly attributable to warming temperatures and earlier snowmelt. In this study, a research team contrasted the three main hypothesized climatic drivers of recent increases in western US wildfire activity: decreased snowpack, increased temperature, and decreased precipitation.
    fishing on snake river
    Anyone familiar with the Columbia River’s massive salmon die-off a few summers ago might also be concerned about how climate change will affect fish habitats. The 2015 die-off killed more than 250,000 fish and was blamed on record low streamflows and high water temperatures. While coldwater fish such as salmon and trout can adjust to slightly warmer-than-normal temperatures for short periods, abnormally high temperatures for prolonged periods lower oxygen levels, increase the likelihood of deadly diseases, and cause life-threatening physiological stress.
    View of the National Forest climate change maps website.
    The National Forest Climate Change Maps project was developed to meet the need of National Forest managers for information on projected climate changes at a scale relevant to decision making processes, including Forest Plans. The maps use state-of-the-art science and are available for every National Forest in the contiguous United States with relevant data coverage. Currently, the map sets include variables related to precipitation, air temperature, snow (including April 1 snow-water equivalent and snow residence time), and stream flow.
    Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
    Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.
    High-severity wildfire.
    Land managers often need the total number of acres burned broken down by these severity classes for planning after wildfire. To meet this need, Forest Service scientists and their cooperators developed the Fire Severity (FIRESEV) Mapping project, a comprehensive set of tools and procedures that create, evaluate, and deliver fire severity maps for all phases of fire management.
    Native trout are culturally and ecologically important, but climate change is likely to shrink the cold-water environments they require. Much can be done to preserve these fish but efficient planning and targeting of conservation resources has been hindered by a lack of broad-scale datasets and precise information about which streams are most likely to support native trout populations later this century. The Climate Shield is a useful took for aquatic fisheries conservation planning.
    Boise River
    New understanding has revealed that declines in snowpacks are not just related to warming temperatures but also to overall decreases in precipitation and streamflow in northwestern U.S. mountains, which result from slowing winter westerly windspeeds over the region. Warming related to an increased atmospheric CO2 may have contributed to the changed atmospheric pressure patterns that result in reduced wind speeds.
    RMRS researcher Charles Luce and the Forest Service Intermountain Region Climate Change Coordinator Natalie Little are partnering with the Manti-La Sal National Forest to better distribute the most recent and relevant climate change knowledge to Regional and Forest leaders and staffs. A workshop for regional and forest staff is being developed to quickly integrate interactive planning climate change sessions into the Manti-La Sal National Forest's Forest Plan Revision. The goal of this project is to deliver usable, actionable information to land managers and Forest staff, and to provide research that is most helpful in the field.
    Flow gages* record discharge in streams and rivers across the U.S. but the extent and adequacy of this monitoring network relative to USFS lands has not been documented. To address that deficiency, the medium resolution National Hydrography Layer was used with gage location information from the National Water Information System to describe the monitoring network and how it has changed through time. Summaries were made for eight USFS regions that describe the number and locations of gages relative to USFS lands and network characteristics such as elevation and watershed area.
    How is drought affecting the forests and rangelands of the United States? Dr. Karin L. Riley, Research Ecologist with the Human Dimensions program of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, participated in a recent effort to synthesize the current science on this topic, along with 76 other scientists from federal land management agencies, universities, and other research institutions.
    Forested and mountainous locations, such as national forests, tend to receive more precipitation than adjacent non-forested or low-lying areas. However the precise contributions of national forest lands to regional streamflow volumes is largely unknown. New modeling work illustrates the importance of water yield from National Forest System land to water quantity and quality through visual and textual presentations of each forest’s contributions to regional streamflow.
    Integrating Forests, Fish, and Fire (IF3) is a Bayesian decision-support model that uses information on forest vegetation, human alterations to habitat, and the potential for fire to predict the post-fire persistence of stream fish populations. The model's purpose is to evaluate alternative vectors for maximizing resilience to future fire activity in forest stands that support such sensitive stream fish as bull trout.