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Integrating Streamflow and Temperature to Identify Streams with Coldwater Refugia in the Northeast

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Jenn Fair
Amrita Gupta
Xiaowei Jia
Benjamin Letcher
Jeff Walker
Research Partners:
States:
Maine
Vermont
New Hampshire
Massachusetts
New York
Rhode Island
Connecticut
Pennsylvania
New Jersey
Delaware
Maryland
Virginia
West Virginia
+10 more

Overview

The amount of water flowing through a stream is an important driver of aquatic habitat, but scientists don’t often measure streamflow in the small stream networks that feed larger rivers. Monitoring smaller streams is especially important as climate change is causing them to (a) flood more often and more intensely, and (b) lose habitat as drought events and water temperatures increase. A better understanding of the changing patterns of flow and temperatures in small streams can help decision makers evaluate which streams will provide suitable habitat for plants and animals under a changing climate.

Specific goals of this project are to 1) understand how water flow and temperature interact in small streams and 2) create a website where observed and model-predicted streamflow and water temperature data are easy to access and explore. The project will use an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model to understand available habitat in small streams. The AI model can recognize and reproduce patterns in large and complex datasets such as long-term timelapse photos and detailed environmental data.

Results from this project will be valuable for tracking changes in small streams that provide important habitat for plants and animals in the northeastern region of the United States. Information can be used by decision makers to identify streams that are the best candidates for management and policies to protect vital aquatic habitats.