Display Project

Predicting Climate Change Impacts on River Ecosystems and Salmonids across the Pacific Northwest: Combining Vulnerability Modeling, Landscape Genomics, and Economic Evaluations for Conservation

Project Information

Affiliation: Northwest CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
Clint C Muhlfeld (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center)
Gordon Luikart (The University of Montana)
Tim Beechie (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries)
John Duffield (The University of Montana)
Leslie A Jones (USGS, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center)
John Kimball (The University of Montana)
Erin Landguth (The University of Montana)
Gregory Pederson (USGS, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center)
Jack Stanford (The University of Montana)
Robin Waples (NOAA Fisheries)

Start Date: 2012

End Date: 2014

Project Status: Completed

Tags: salmonids, vulnerability, spatially explicity models, river analysis project (RAP), stream temperature, flow, vulnerability assessment, CSC, Northwest CSC, 2012

Fiscal Year: FY 2012 Projects


Salmonids, a group of coldwater adapted fishes of enormous ecological and socio-economic value, historically inhabited a variety of freshwater habitats throughout the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Over the past century, however, populations have dramatically declined due to habitat loss, overharvest, and invasive species. Consequently, many populations are listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Complicating these stressors is global warming and associated climate change. Overall, aquatic ecosystems across the PNW are predicted to experience increasingly earlier snowmelt in the spring, reduced late spring and summer flows, increased winter flooding, warmer and drier summers, increased water temperatures, and expansion of invasive species. Understanding how effects of climate change might influence habitat for native salmonid populations is critical for effective management and recovery of these species. Scientists at the USGS and University of Montana used novel techniques and empirical data to study how climate change may drive landscape scale impacts that affect freshwater habitats and populations of key salmonid species (bull trout, cutthroat trout, and steelhead) throughout the PNW. Results showed strong linkages between climatic drivers (temperature and flow regimes) and the distribution, abundance and genetic diversity of native salmonids across the PNW. Specifically, warming temperatures and shifting flow regimes are expected to fragment stream systems and cause salmonids to retreat upstream to headwater areas, thereby decreasing fish population abundance and genetic diversity, both of which are critical for persistence in a changing landscape. Climate-changeā€induced periods of decreasing spring snowmelt and increases in stream temperatures are likely to decrease native biodiversity by fostering cross-breeding between invasive and native trout species. The study also developed a new framework for assessing the vulnerability of freshwater species to climate change and other stressors in complex stream networks, which will aid managers in proactively implementing conservation programs to increase resiliency and adaptive capacity of aquatic species.

Products & Data
  • Bull Trout Vulnerability Assessment in Columbia River Basin Geodatabase

    BT vulnerability.zip (Download)
  • Bull trout populations, recovery units, watershed, and allelic richness values across the Columbia River, USA

    Genetic AR.pdf (Download)
  • Combining demographic and genetic factors to assess population vulnerability in stream species

    Landguth et al. 2014 (External URL)
  • Genetic diversity is related to climatic variation and vulnerability in threatened bull trout

    Kovach et al. 2015 (External URL)
  • Genomics and introgression: discovery and mapping ofthousands of species-diagnostic SNPs using RAD sequencing

    THUMBNAIL (External URL)
    index page (External URL)
    metadata5005959705501071126.xml (Download)
  • Invasive hybridization in a threatened species is accelerated by climate change

    Muhlfeld et al. 2014 (External URL)
  • Landscape community genomics: understanding eco-evolutionary processes in complex environments

    Hand et al. 2015 (External URL)
  • Predicting Climate Change Impacts on River Ecosystems and Salmonids across the Pacific Northwest: Combining Vulnerability Modeling, Landscape Genomics, and Economic Evaluations for Conservation

    NWCSC_FY12_USGS_Muhlfeld_FinalReport_21May15.pdf (Download)
Map Files

Download all map files

  • Studyarea_PNW.shp [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.dbf [application/octet-stream] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.shx [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.prj [text/plain] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.shp.xml [application/fgdc+xml] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.sbn [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
  • Studyarea_PNW.sbx [x-gis/x-shapefile] (Download)
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