Stream Temperature Monitoring
Building a foundation for a spatially continuous map of waterbody temperatures on Refuges and neighboring waters in the southeastern United States
Why monitor water temperature?
Water temperature plays a fundamental role in determining the distribution of aquatic organisms, water quality, and ecosystem health. Many waters are flow-regulated and thermally altered by point source discharges, dams, and climate change. Understanding the magnitude and characteristics of thermal alteration is crucial to planning conservation actions, especially for rare biota in these systems.
Water use and climate change are altering thermal habitat
Future climate warming will likely increase water loss through evapotranspiration (ET) due to increased evaporative potential and plant species shifts (Ingram et al. 2013). Greater ET can decrease total streamflow, particularly during the summer months, which could lead to increased summertime maximum water temperatures. Inland water temperature is projected to increase with increases in air temperature in the Southeast, resulting in possible adverse impacts on coldwater fish habitat in the Appalachians (Ingram et al. 2013). In addition, growing population and crop irrigation are dramatically increasing both energy demand and water use, contributing to decreased streamflow and increased thermal pollution from power plant cooling water (Ingram et al. 2013). In Alabama, the Browns Ferry nuclear plant had to drastically reduce its output to avoid exceeding the river temperature limit and fish kills in the Tennessee River (Averyt et al. 2011). The impacts on streamflow and temperature due to human water use and climate change are likely to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
Multiple efforts throughout the United States have recently emerged to quantify stream temperature regimes and extrapolate site-level findings to larger geographic areas, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast (Isaak et al. 2011, USGS undated). New statistical techniques have recently been developed and employed in western states that can predict stream temperatures with 93% accuracy (Isaak et al. 2010). These techniques can readily be applied to southeastern states. However, the foundation for the application of these techniques is continuously collected high quality temperature data.
Compared to other regions of the United States, the southeast has more streams but fewer long term water temperature monitoring locations. While there is relatively intensive monitoring in the southern Appalachians, coastal, and urban areas, there are broad geographic areas where temperature monitoring is relatively sparse. Located in many of these data-poor areas are National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries, making them good locations to begin long-term water temperature monitoring efforts. Establishing stream temperature monitoring stations at refuges and hatcheries will help to fill data gaps in the regional monitoring network while also providing data that will be relevant to refuge and hatchery management needs.
Temperature data loggers will be deployed in freshwater streams at up to 65 inland refuges and hatcheries. Standardized protocols for temperature logger deployment will be employed whenever possible (Dunham et al. 2005). It is anticipated that two to three stream monitoring sites and one air temperature monitoring site (if none exists) will be established at most participating stations, although more sites may be established at larger stations or those with a greater diversity or abundance of stream habitat. Monitoring will continue for a minimum of 5 years (the predicted battery life of the loggers). Priority will be given to refuges or hatcheries that (1) are located in areas where existing monitoring sites are sparse, (2) have stream types that are underrepresented in the existing regional monitoring network, (3) contain or are close to aquatic critical habitat, or (4) have identified management needs for temperature data or express an interest in participating.
A collaborative effort
This is a collaborative effort between Ecological Services, Refuges, National Fish Hatcheries, and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership. To leverage limited manpower and travel budgets, project team members will solicit the assistance of field office staff and station personnel for deploying and maintaining temperature loggers in the field, particularly for more remote stations. Project team members will be responsible for programming data loggers and for data management and analysis, and may deploy, maintain and retrieve loggers at selected stations. At most participating stations, station personnel or cooperating field office staff will be responsible for deploying and maintaining temperature loggers in the field, and for retrieving and mailing the loggers to the project team for data download.
Data will be shared with field stations promptly after it has been downloaded and passed a preliminary QA check.
In order to facilitate building a regional, spatially continuous map of stream temperature in the future, the project team will reach out to USGS, USFS, and others to build a collaborative regional stream temperature monitoring partnership.
Will Duncan, Georgia Ecological Services
firstname.lastname@example.org; 706-613-9493 x227
Mark Cantrell, Asheville Ecological Services
Emily Granstaff, Cookeville Ecological Services
John Faustini, Regional Office