skip to main content

Title: Quantifying thermal refugia connectivity by combining temperature modeling, distributed temperature sensing, and thermal infrared imaging
Abstract. Watershed-scale stream temperature models are often one-dimensional because they require fewer data and are more computationally efficient than two- or three-dimensional models. However, one-dimensional models assume completely mixed reaches and ignore small-scale spatial temperature variability, which may create temperature barriers or refugia for cold-water aquatic species. Fine spatial- and temporal-resolution stream temperature monitoring provides information to identify river features with increased thermal variability. We used distributed temperature sensing (DTS) to observe small-scale stream temperature variability, measured as a temperature range through space and time, within two 400 m reaches in summer 2015 in Nevada's East Walker and main stem Walker rivers. Thermal infrared (TIR) aerial imagery collected in summer 2012 quantified the spatial temperature variability throughout the Walker Basin. We coupled both types of high-resolution measured data with simulated stream temperatures to corroborate model results and estimate the spatial distribution of thermal refugia for Lahontan cutthroat trout and other cold-water species. Temperature model estimates were within the DTS-measured temperature ranges 21 % and 70 % of the time for the East Walker River and main stem Walker River, respectively, and within TIR-measured temperatures 17 %, 5 %, and 5 % of the time for the East Walker, West Walker, and main stem Walker rivers, respectively. DTS, TIR, and modeled more » stream temperatures in the main stem Walker River nearly always exceeded the 21 ∘C optimal temperature threshold for adult trout, usually exceeded the 24 ∘C stress threshold, and could exceed the 28 ∘C lethal threshold for Lahontan cutthroat trout. Measured stream temperature ranges bracketed ambient river temperatures by −10.1 to +2.3 ∘C in agricultural return flows, −1.2 to +4 ∘C at diversions, −5.1 to +2 ∘C in beaver dams, and −4.2 to 0 ∘C at seeps. To better understand the role of these river features on thermal refugia during warm time periods, the respective temperature ranges were added to simulated stream temperatures at each of the identified river features. Based on this analysis, the average distance between thermal refugia in this system was 2.8 km. While simulated stream temperatures are often too warm to support Lahontan cutthroat trout and other cold-water species, thermal refugia may exist to improve habitat connectivity and facilitate trout movement between spawning and summer habitats. Overall, high-resolution DTS and TIR measurements quantify temperature ranges of refugia and augment process-based modeling. « less
; ;
Award ID(s):
1832109 1832170
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
2965 to 2982
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is typically used to enhance the agricultural water supply but may also be promising to maintain summer streamflows and temperatures for cold-water fish. An existing aquifer model, water temperature data, and analysis of water administration were used to assess potential benefits of MAR to cold-water fisheries in Idaho’s Snake River. This highly-regulated river supports irrigated agriculture worth US $10 billion and recreational trout fisheries worth $100 million. The assessment focused on the Henry’s Fork Snake River, which receives groundwater from recharge incidental to irrigation and from MAR operations 8 km from the river, addressing (1) the quantity and timing of MAR-produced streamflow response, (2) the mechanism through which MAR increases streamflow, (3) whether groundwater inputs decrease the local stream temperature, and (4) the legal and administrative hurdles to using MAR for cold-water fisheries conservation in Idaho. The model estimated a long-term 4%–7% increase in summertime streamflow from annual MAR similar to that conducted in 2019. Water temperature observations confirmed that recharge increased streamflow via aquifer discharge rather than reduction in river losses to the aquifer. In addition, groundwater seeps created summer thermal refugia. Measured summer stream temperature at seeps was within the optimal temperature range formore »brown trout, averaging 14.4 °C, whereas ambient stream temperature exceeded 19 °C, the stress threshold for brown trout. Implementing MAR for fisheries conservation is challenged by administrative water rules and regulations. Well-developed and trusted water rights and water-transaction systems in Idaho and other western states enable MAR. However, in Idaho, conservation groups are unable to engage directly in water transactions, hampering MAR for fisheries protection.« less
  2. Abstract. Landslides are the main source of sediment in most mountain ranges. Rivers then act as conveyor belts, evacuating landslide-derived sediment. Sediment dynamics are known to influence landscape evolution through interactions among landslide sediment delivery, fluvial transport and river incision into bedrock. Sediment delivery and its interaction with river incision therefore control the pace of landscape evolution and mediate relationships among tectonics, climate and erosion. Numerical landscape evolution models (LEMs) are well suited to study the interactions among these surface processes. They enable evaluation of a range of hypotheses at varying temporal and spatial scales. While many models have been used to study the dynamic interplay between tectonics, erosion and climate, the role of interactions between landslide-derived sediment and river incision has received much less attention. Here, we present HyLands, a hybrid landscape evolution model integrated within the TopoToolbox Landscape Evolution Model (TTLEM) framework. The hybrid nature of the model lies in its capacity to simulate both erosion and deposition at any place in the landscape due to fluvial bedrock incision, sediment transport, and rapid, stochastic mass wasting through landsliding. Fluvial sediment transport and bedrock incision are calculated using the recently developed Stream Power with Alluvium Conservation and Entrainment (SPACE)more »model. Therefore, rivers can dynamically transition from detachment-limited to transport-limited and from bedrock to bedrock–alluvial to fully alluviated states. Erosion and sediment production by landsliding are calculated using a Mohr–Coulomb stability analysis, while landslide-derived sediment is routed and deposited using a multiple-flow-direction, nonlinear deposition method. We describe and evaluate the HyLands 1.0 model using analytical solutions and observations. We first illustrate the functionality of HyLands to capture river dynamics ranging from detachment-limited to transport-limited conditions. Second, we apply the model to a portion of the Namche Barwa massif in eastern Tibet and compare simulated and observed landslide magnitude–frequency and area–volume scaling relationships. Finally, we illustrate the relevance of explicitly simulating landsliding and sediment dynamics over longer timescales for landscape evolution in general and river dynamics in particular. With HyLands we provide a new tool to understand both the long- and short-term coupling between stochastic hillslope processes, river incision and source-to-sink sediment dynamics.« less
  3. We examined the patterns of propagule recruitment to assess the timescale and trajectory of succession and the possible roles of physical factors in controlling benthic community structure in a shallow High Arctic kelp bed in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska. Spatial differences in established epilithic assemblages were evaluated against static habitat attributes (depth, distance from river inputs) and environmental factors (temperature, salinity, current speed, underwater light) collected continuously over 2–6 years. Our measurements revealed that bottom waters remained below freezing (mean winter temperatures ∼−1.8°C) and saline (33–36) with negligible light levels for 8–9 months. In contrast, the summer open water period was characterized by variable salinities (22–36), higher temperatures (up to 8–9°C) and measurable irradiance (1–8 mol photons m –2 day –1 ). An inshore, near-river site experienced strong, acute, springtime drops in salinity to nearly 0 in some years. The epilithic community was dominated by foliose red algae (47–79%), prostrate kelps (2–19%), and crustose coralline algae (0–19%). Strong spatial distinctions among sites included a positive correlation between cover by crustose coralline algae and distance to river inputs, but we found no significant relationships between multi-year means of physical factors and functional groups. Low rates of colonization and the very slowmore »growth rates of recruits are the main factors that contribute to prolonged community development, which augments the influence of low-frequency physical events over local community structure. Mortality during early succession largely determines crustose coralline algal and invertebrate prevalence in the established community, while kelp seem to be recruitment-limited. On scales > 1 m, community structure varies with bathymetry and exposure to freshwater intrusion, which regulate frequency of primary and physiological disturbance. Colonization rates (means of 3.3–69.9 ind. 100 cm –1 year –1 site –1 ) were much lower than studies in other Arctic kelp habitats, and likely reflect the nature of a truly High Arctic environment. Our results suggest that community development in the nearshore Beaufort Sea occurs over decades, and is affected by combinations of recruitment limitation, primary disturbance, and abiotic stressors. While seasonality exerts strong influence on Arctic systems, static habitat characteristics largely determine benthic ecosystem structure by integrating seasonal and interannual variability over timescales longer than most ecological studies.« less
  4. Abstract. Ecohydrological models are powerful tools to quantify the effects that independent fluxes may have on catchment storage dynamics. Here, we adapted the tracer-aided ecohydrological model, EcH2O-iso, for cold regions with the explicit conceptualization of dynamic soil freeze–thaw processes. We tested the model at the data-rich Krycklan site in northern Sweden with multi-criterion calibration using discharge, stream isotopes and soil moisture in three nested catchments. We utilized the model's incorporation of ecohydrological partitioning to evaluate the effect of soil frost on evaporation and transpiration water ages, and thereby the age of source waters. The simulation of stream discharge, isotopes, and soil moisture variability captured the seasonal dynamics at all three stream sites and both soil sites, with notable reductions in discharge and soil moisture during the winter months due to the development of the frost front. Stream isotope simulations reproduced the response to the isotopically depleted pulse of spring snowmelt. The soil frost dynamics adequately captured the spatial differences in the freezing front throughout the winter period, despite no direct calibration of soil frost to measured soil temperature. The simulated soil frost indicated a maximum freeze depth of 0.25 m below forest vegetation. Water ages of evaporation and transpiration reflect themore »influence of snowmelt inputs, with a high proclivity of old water (pre-winter storage) at the beginning of the growing season and a mix of snowmelt and precipitation (young water) toward the end of the summer. Soil frost had an early season influence of the transpiration water ages, with water pre-dating the snowpack mainly sustaining vegetation at the start of the growing season. Given the long-term expected change in the energy balance of northern climates, the approach presented provides a framework for quantifying the interactions of ecohydrological fluxes and waters stored in the soil and understanding how these may be impacted in future.

    « less
  5. Abstract. A critical component of hydrologic modeling in cold andtemperate regions is partitioning precipitation into snow and rain, yetlittle is known about how uncertainty in precipitation phase propagates intovariability in simulated snow accumulation and melt. Given the wide varietyof methods for distinguishing between snow and rain, it is imperative toevaluate the sensitivity of snowpack model output to precipitation phasedetermination methods, especially considering the potential of snow-to-rainshifts associated with climate warming to fundamentally change the hydrologyof snow-dominated areas. To address these needs we quantified thesensitivity of simulated snow accumulation and melt to rain–snowpartitioning methods at sites in the western United States using theSNOWPACK model without the canopy module activated. The methods in thisstudy included different permutations of air, wet bulb and dew pointtemperature thresholds, air temperature ranges, and binary logisticregression models. Compared to observations of snow depth and snow water equivalent (SWE), thebinary logistic regression models produced the lowest mean biases, whilehigh and low air temperature thresholds tended to overpredict andunderpredict snow accumulation, respectively. Relative differences betweenthe minimum and maximum annual snowfall fractions predicted by the differentmethods sometimes exceeded 100 % at elevations less than 2000 m in theOregon Cascades and California's Sierra Nevada. This led to rangesin annual peak SWE typically greatermore »than 200 mm,exceeding 400 mm in certain years. At the warmer sites, ranges in snowmelttiming predicted by the different methods were generally larger than 2 weeks, while ranges in snow cover duration approached 1 month and greater.Conversely, the three coldest sites in this work were relatively insensitiveto the choice of a precipitation phase method, with average ranges in annualsnowfall fraction, peak SWE, snowmelt timing, and snow cover duration of lessthan 18 %, 62 mm, 10 d, and 15 d, respectively. Average ranges in snowmeltrate were typically less than 4 mm d−1 and exhibited a smallrelationship to seasonal climate. Overall, sites with a greater proportionof precipitation falling at air temperatures between 0 and4 ∘C exhibited the greatest sensitivity to method selection,suggesting that the identification and use of an optimal precipitation phasemethod is most important at the warmer fringes of the seasonal snow zone.« less