Pacific Salmon Foundation: Salmon Watersheds Program

The Columbia River, near Trail. Photo by Dawn Mucha.
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Stream Temperature Modeling for BC

During this project, PSF and its partners set out to develop stream temperature modeling infrastructure intended to provide the starting basis for a science-based tool that can be used to enhance management, monitoring, and coordination of stakeholder engagement around aquatic resources in BC and with the USA. This work leveraged the technologies, protocols, and advancements made through the NorWeST project funded for the US portion of the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GNLCC) and the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC), while also integrating the related experience and data that have been developed in BC.

The work built on existing spatial layers and compilations of data from existing agency temperature monitoring efforts in BC, with the purpose of providing consistent modeling frameworks and sets of reference conditions. In Year 1, the pilot study areas were selected and evaluated. In Year 2, we (1) to refined NorWeST modeling methods/protocols for one of the pilot study areas initially evaluated in Year 1, the Nicola basin, and (2) applied NorWeST modeling methods and protocols to a selected Canada/USA transboundary watershed, the Okanagan Basin.

Map of the Nicola basin.

A key focus of Year 2 was determining whether it would be possible to develop a workable Spatial Statistical Network (SSN) stream temperature model for a transboundary watershed, which, to our knowledge, had not been attempted to date. Pilot areas were selected for testing based on perceived availability of useable time series temperature data as guided by the project’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG was comprised of the US Forestry Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, BC Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University.

Application of NorWeST project methods required working with new spatial layers and data sets to test the transferability of protocols for eventual wider scale application across the northern portions of the GNLCC and NPLCC in BC. Initial outputs from this project include the beginning of an interagency stream temperature database for BC and spatially continuous maps of stream temperature derived from basin-scale temperature models for our pilot watersheds.

While the primary objective of this project was to develop SSN models to provide an accurate description of historical summer stream temperatures in pilot watersheds within BC, the larger goal was for the approach and resulting information to ultimately to help frame a science-based decision support tool such that planning efforts, regulatory tools, and management actions around aquatic environments in BC can be implemented more efficiently and with greater confidence.



The project demonstrated an initial proof of concept for transferring stream temperature modeling approaches and protocols developed previously by the USFS for the US Pacific northwest for use with BC’s spatial layers and datasets, as well as with the “harmonized” transboundary hydrology layer developed for the IJC. Learning in this regard was focused on attempting to apply the required processes across designated pilot study areas in separate areas of the province as well as within a transboundary watershed. The successful completion of these initial exercises in Year 2 of this project and the considerable learning that has been developed through the process suggests that there is good potential to now move forward effectively towards broader application of NorWeST approaches within BC watersheds where data allow.

For further details on our approach and a full list of all the actions that were developed, see the report linked below.

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