Stream and Lake Workshop
5-6 November 2012, Anchorage, Alaska
Co-hosted by the Western Alaska and Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) and the Alaska Climate Science Center, Working with the Wildlife Management Institute
Hydrologic processes greatly influence Alaska’s physical and biological resources and the human communities that depend upon them. These processes will also be greatly impacted by expected changes in climate, including warming temperatures and changing seasonal precipitation patterns and amounts. However, current understanding of those impacts is limited. Improving that understanding is a first step toward assessing how the likely changes in hydrology will impact other physical and biological processes.
Water temperature is an important hydrologic characteristic, both because of what it influences and what it is influenced by (and thus is an indicator of). It is also relatively inexpensive to measure at a site. Many groups monitor water temperature or are considering doing so. Though their objectives differ, this broad interest provides an opportunity for a coordinated statewide approach to water temperature monitoring.
Coordination could reduce costs in many aspects of the monitoring while providing information for land and resource decision making, and research, at multiple spatial scales (site specific to eco-regional). Analyses of regional trends can better reveal long-term patterns than simple, site-specific analyses. Since regional air temperature is a major driver of regional water temperature patterns, one can hind- and fore-cast stream and lake temperatures using local and regional climate data, observed or projected.
These many motivations brought together 28 hydrologists, researchers, fisheries biologists, local experts and managers for a workshop structured to acheive these things:
Share information about current stream and lake temperature monitoring efforts in Alaska;
Identify ways to leverage existing monitoring efforts to provide summaries and analyses at larger spatial scales (‘regional analyses’) of the effects of climate variability and climate change on water temperature and, via that impact, on ecosystems;
Recommend minimum standards for data collection necessary to facilitate analyses at larger spatial scales of the relationship between air temperature and water temperature;
Begin identifying spatial gaps in the current monitoring network related to understanding and/or assessing the effects of climate variability and change on water temperature; and
Recommend standards for data management to support data sharing among groups and in support of conducting regional analyses.
A preliminary map of locations where water temperature data is currently collected in Alaska was produced during the workshop. This mapping exercise was a crucial step for identifying opportunities and gaps in information.
The prioritized recommendations for advancing toward regional monitoring and analyses included:
Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the proposed regional network for monitoring stream and lake water temperature.
Conduct a more comprehensive inventory of project metadata and attributes (e.g., who, what, where, when) for current and past stream and lake temperature monitoring efforts.
Identify a network of 'reference sites', intended to be maintained in "perpetuity" (20 year minimum), that will serve as the network's core observational framework and to which shorter duration observations from other sites can be linked and 'anchored'.
Demonstrate the power and value of predictive scenarios based on water temperature data for pilot regions in Alaska.
Develop minimum standards for data collection methods for a project to meet so that its water temperature observations can be usable in a regional network analysis.
Define the characteristics (architecture) for storing and distributing water temperature data for Alaska.
The Western Alaska LCC and the Alaska Climate Science Center committed a portion of their FY2013 project funding to implementing these workshop recommendations. Information on the WALCC's RFP addressing recommendation 2 is available in the RFP archive.
The detailed meeting record is available below, or you can download the report.