Boise Forest Service researcher Dan Isaak and a team of federal scientists report that record setting drought and high temperatures may become the “new normal” that managers of aquatic resources in the Rocky Mountains have to contend with as the century progresses.
Isaak, a fisheries biologist at the Idaho Water Center, led the study, published in the science journal, Fisheries, “ The Past as Prelude to the Future for Understanding 21st-Century Climate Effects on Rocky Mountain Trout .” Collaborators came from the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology.
Long-term monitoring records from case history areas that include river basins in northwest Montana, central Idaho, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, western Wyoming and southern Colorado, show trends in temperature and stream flow that suggest trout habitats have already been altered by climate change during the last 50 years.
“Unfortunately, similar long-term records for trout populations are lacking so scientists are unable to confirm simultaneous changes in trout populations,” said Isaak in a press release from the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station released today.
It recommends that local monitoring networks of biological, temperature, and stream flow data be developed and used with new spatial stream analyses to provide high-resolution climate vulnerability assessments that would provide decision makers with “actionable intelligence” regarding where to most efficiently allocate conservation resources. At a time of budget cutting, monitoring is among the highest science and management priorities but not high among political priorities.
The paper says warmer temperatures are already showing up in the Boise River Basin.