16 Nov 2017

Success for the NorWeST stream temperature project

I got this message in an email from Dan Isaak, and I'm posting it here as a great example of cooperation over water data (and thus management):

Hi Everyone,

Just writing to thank the hundreds of professionals from more than 100 natural resource agencies in the western U.S. that contributed their river and stream temperature datasets collected over the last 20 years to help us constitute the NorWeST database. The paper describing outcomes from the 6 years of work it took to accomplish that task was just published in Water Resources Research and is available at the NorWeST project website, along with the temperature data from ~23,000 stream sites and high-resolution summer temperature scenarios that were interpolated among those sites. When the project began in 2011, the goal was simple—get everyone’s data organized and accessible in a comprehensive database to facilitate data sharing & recycling, decrease redundancy of monitoring efforts, stimulate collaboration among agencies, and enable new research on thermal ecology and stream temperature dynamics that would facilitate better conservation and management. That goal & the associated benefits seem to have been achieved as evidenced by the grass-roots user-community that has grown around NorWeST and the large amount of traffic through the website, which receives ~12,000 annual visits and services the downloads of hundreds of digital data products each year.

We’d be remiss not to also thank the grant funding agencies that made NorWeST possible. First and foremost are the Great Northern LCC and North Pacific LCC that started our small snowball rolling in the northwest before it gathered steam & grew organically thereafter to encompass the remainder of the western U.S. with additional funding from NFWF, California FPF, USFWS, NASA, TU, and EPA. Organizing thousands of data records would have been impossible without the consistent geospatial framework provided by the National Hydrography Dataset, so our thanks too to the joint EPA-USGS NHD development team led by Al Rea & Tommy DeWald.

A few fun facts about the stream thermalscape associated with the 2,500,000 km2 western U.S. There are 1,600,000 km of channels draining the area as represented by NHD bluelines, of which approximately 343,000 km are perennial rivers and streams. The average August temperature during the period of 1993–2011 in those perennial streams was 14.2°C (SD = 4.0°C) but with climate change related air temperature increases and summer flow decreases, streams have been warming at the rate of 0.17°C/decade since the mid 1970s and are now ~0.7°C warmer than they were. To facilitate conservation planning efforts as that warming trend continues for the foreseeable future, 36 scenarios representing historical and possible future stream climates at 1-km resolution are available as ArcGIS shapefiles at the NorWeST website. Additional scenarios are under development by our group and others to represent different seasonal periods, which is a straightforward task now that a robust database and statistical codesets have been developed.

The NorWeST notion was ultimately inspired by the community of aquatic professionals across the western U.S. that cares intensely about streams, rivers, and the cool critters they harbor. We hope our partnership with that community inspires similar efforts elsewhere to develop comprehensive databases, efficient monitoring networks, & models that yield ever-improving information for decision makers this century.

Best regards, The NorWeST Team (D. Isaak, S. Wenger, E. Peterson, J. Ver Hoef, D. Nagel, C. Luce, S. Hostetler, J. Dunham, B. Roper, S. Wollrab, G. Chandler, S. Parkes, D. Horan)

p.s. We’ll be replicating this crowd-sourced, open-access database business again soon for aquatic biodiversity in the western U.S. with eDNA datasets collected by many agencies. More on that this winter when the NFWF funded Aquatic eDNAtlas website & dataportal are launched (preliminary details here)

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