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An Integrated Assessment of Lake and Stream Thermal Habitat Under Climate Change

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Matt Diebel, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Gretchen A. Hansen, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Peter C. Jacobson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Emily H. Stanley, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Kevin Wehrly, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Luke A. Winslow, Center for Integrated Data Analytics, USGS
Kevin Rose, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Megan Hines, Center for Integrated Data Analytics, USGS
Dale Robertson, Wisconsin Water Science Center, USGS
+4 more


Water temperatures are warming in lakes and streams, resulting in the loss of many native fish. Given clear passage, coldwater stream fishes can take refuge upstream when larger streams become too warm. Likewise, many Midwestern lakes “thermally stratify” resulting in warmer waters on top of deeper, cooler waters. Many of these lakes are connected to threatened streams. To date, assessments of the effects of climate change on fish have mostly ignored lakes, and focused instead on streams. Because surface waters represent a network of habitats, an integrated assessment of stream and lake temperatures under climate change is necessary for decision-making. This work  informed the preservation of lake/stream linkages, prioritization restoration strategies, and stocking efforts for sport fish. This project employed state-of-the-science methods to model historical and future thermal habitat for nearly ten thousand lakes. These data will be combined with observations of fish, stream connectivity and stream temperature data to predict suitable fish thermal habitat. The results of this project are used by partners and stakeholders to prioritize adaptation and restoration strategies for the region’s freshwater resources. Additionally, these data products have been shared openly in machine-readable formats to spur other innovation and research.  


Webinar: Read, J.S. and G.J.A. Hansen, Climate change impacts on lake thermal habitat. NE CSC Webinar, March, 2017.
Read, J.S., UW-Madison water symposium, May 9th, 2017.
PI Hansen, "Variable lake and fish community responses to climate change." The National Adaptation Forum/Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference. May 9, 2017.
Read, J.S and others. "Mechanistic Lake Modeling to Understand and Predict Heterogeneous Responses to Climate Warming." American Geophysical Union Fall meeting. December 2016.
Hansen, G.J.A., "Understanding and predicting change in inland fish communities." University of Minnesota Conservation Science Seminar Series, St. Paul, MN. November 2016.
Read, J.S and others. "Understanding and Predicting Heterogeneous Thermal Responses of Inland Waters to Climate Warming." American Fisheries Society 146th Annual meeting. August 2016.
Read, J.S and others, "A new era of freshwater science." National Science Foundation. May 2016
Read, J.S., "Modeling the past and future of 10,000 economically valuable lakes: Applying water and climate data to management needs", Joint Research Committee and Federal Geographic Data Committee Webex. March, 2016
Read, J.S., Winslow, L.A. and others. "Tools for access, manipulation, and modeling of federal water and climate data." Office of Water Information USGS workshop. Webex, and in person Middleton, Wisconsin March 2016.
Winslow, L.A. and others. "Seasonally non-uniform responses to climate change in temperate lakes." ASLO Ocean Sciences meeting. February 2016.
Hansen, G.J.I. and others. "Using species-environment relationships to guide fisheries management in a changing climate." University of Minnesota Conservation Science Fisheries and Aquatic Biology Seminar Series, St. Paul, MN. January 2016.
Hansen, G.J.I. and J.S. Read. UW-Madison's Center for Limnology graduate symposium, October 28, 2015.
Luke Winslow et al. Modeling past and future thermal conditions for 2,500 Wisconsin managed lakes. American Fisheries Society 145th Annual meeting, Quebec City. August 17, 2015.
Gretchen Hansen et al. "Resilience of Walleye thermal habitat to climate change in Wisconsin lakes." American Fisheries Society 145th Annual meeting, Quebec City. August 17, 2015.
Winslow, L.A., "Some like it hot: Understanding past and future climate trends and impacts in Middwestern lakes." National Wildlife Health Center. April 2015
Winslow, L.A., Read, J.S. and others. GLM-AED Lake Modeling workshop. University of Wisconsin-Madison and USGS modeling training course, Madison, Wisconsin March 2015.
Hansen, G.J.I. et al. "What’s the deal with Wisconsin’s walleye?" Climate Change Science & Management Webinar Series (NCCWSC). September 29, 2015.
+12 more


University of Minnesota CFANS Research: Local adaptation can sustain walleye fisheries in the face of habitat loss May, 2019 

NE CSC NEWS:  Climate Change and Freshwater Fish Product Wins USGS Communications Excellence Award. January 2018

The Capital Times. Climate change is here: Wisconsin is seeing earlier springs, later falls, less snow and more floods. November 2017.

NCCWSC Snapshot Warmer Waters Could Impact Sport Fishing in Wisconsin October 31, 2017

Living on the Lake. USGS study finds lake temperatures are warming. September 2017.

Yale Climate Connections. Wisconsin's iconic walleyes feeling brunt from warming lakes. July 2017.

Science News "Lakes worldwide feel the heat from climate change"  May 13, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Smith: Walleye decline spotlight on Lac Vieux Desert.  March 2017

UW-Madison Center for Limnology.  Bass Set to Win, Walleye Lose Under Warming Projections.  January 2017.

The Habitat Section of the American Fisheries Society. Changing climate threatens Walleye, benefits Largemouth Bass. December 2016.

The Isthmus. Heat misers: Data shows Madison’s lakes are getting warmer. December 2016.

NE CSC NEWS: "New Interactive Tool Looking at Rising Temps in Midwestern Lakes"  September 16, 2016

Pioneer Press. By 2040, less than 4% of Wisconsin lakes might have walleye, study predicts. September 2016

The Hamilton Spectator. Study says climate change bad for walleyes.  September 2016. Could Wisconsin study solve Mille Lacs walleye decline mystery? September 2016

Environmental Monitor. Walleye Stocks In Wisconsin Lakes Going Down With Warming. September 2016

Wide Open Spaces. Wisconsin Study Says Climate Change is Going to Impact Bass and Walleye Fishing in the Midwest. September 2016

Wisconsin Public Radio. Do Higher Water Temperatures Mean Fewer Walleye In Wisconsin Lakes?  September 2016. Gov. Scott Walker’s science cuts may hinder efforts to halt walleye decline.  May 2015.​

As part of our deliverables to share the tools we are building, we have released an R package for accessing climate data (geoknife) and a tool for sharing data on (sbtools).