Salmon Watersheds Program

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Stream Temperature Modeling for British Columbia

Description

This project focused on developing the stream temperature modeling infrastructure that can 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 British Columbia (BC) and with the United States (US). This work leveraged the technologies, protocols, and advancements made through the NorWeST project funded for the US portion of the Great Northern and North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, while also integrating the related experience and data that has been developed in BC.

Building on existing spatial layers and compilations of data from existing agency temperature monitoring efforts in BC, this project set out to establish consistent modeling frameworks and sets of reference conditions for examining stream temperature. In Year 1 the pilot study areas were selected and evaluated. In Year 2, we (1) refined the 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.

A key focus of Year 2 was to determine whether it would be possible to develop a workable Spatial Stream 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.

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.

Specific objectives for this project were to:

  1. Compile stream temperature data from various sources for the selected pilot study areas (and more broadly across the province as time and budget allowed);
  2. Develop the base architecture for a comprehensive, interagency stream temperature database maintained by the PSF where these data can be housed in the future;
  3. Pilot existing NorWeST protocols for application to the spatial layers and stream temperature data in pilot watersheds in BC and a Canada/USA transboundary region;
  4. Develop spatial statistical network-derived stream temperature models that incorporate important climate drivers and geomorphic factors; and
  5. Use the models to predict historic and potential future patterns in stream temperatures for streams in the pilot watersheds using publicly available 1:20K (BC provincial Freshwater Atlas) or 1:24K (International Joint Commission (IJC) harmonized hydrology) stream networks as the GIS-based modeling framework.

Nicola basin study area

Outcomes

The project demonstrated an initial proof of concept for transferring stream temperature modeling approaches and protocols developed previously by the US Forest Service for the US Pacific northwest for use with BC’s spatial layers and datasets, as well as with the “harmonized” transboundary hydrology layer. 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.

Related links

Final report: Interagency stream temperature database and high-resolution stream temperature model for British Columbia: A pilot project (Year 2)