Project

Climate change will have sweeping impacts across the northeast, yet there are key gaps in our understanding about whether species will be able to adapt to this changing environment. This project illuminated local and region-wide changes in forest ecosystems by studying the red-backed salamander, a species that is a strong indicator of forest conditions. This study identified habitat and forest characteristics that improve the resiliency of forest dwelling amphibians and other wildlife to climate change. Further, by studying a foundational species in forest floor ecosystems, others can use the information to make inferences about rare and declining species. This project found evidence that salamanders will be negatively impacted by hotter temperature and drier conditions, both in terms in how well they might survive but also in their ability to move around on the forest floor. With reductions in surface activity, there are less opportunities to forage or find mates

Project

Climate change poses a variety of threats to biodiversity. Most efforts to assess the likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity try to rank species based on their vulnerability under changed environmental conditions. These efforts have generally not considered the ability of organisms to adjust their phenotype to the changing environment. Organisms can do this one of two ways. First, they can adjust their phenotype via non-evolutionary pathways. Second, they can undergo adaptive evolutionary change. We used two interconnected approaches to evaluate thermal adaptation capacity in a cold-water fish species. 1) Using tagging data, we estimated thermal performance curves for wild fish. The curves indicate how fish body growth will respond to changing temperatures. 2) Using genomic approaches, we developed a unified single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel for use across the species’ range to examine adaptive capacity

Project

Small dams and impoundments are ubiquitous in stream networks in the northeastern and north central US.  Concerns about their effects on stream fish population connectivity and their risks to human infrastructure and safety have prompted efforts to remove many of these dams.  Dams also have  potentially significant impacts on stream thermal regimes, and as a consequence their removal may either ameliorate or exacerbate effects of increasing air temperatures.  Also, given their ubiquity, temperature modeling and monitoring efforts need to account for the effects of small impoundments for assessment and prediction. From the results of the first two seasons of field work, it appears that the direct effects of impoundments may persist considerable distances downstream and that these effects are flow-dependent

Project

Coldwater stream fishes are widely predicted to move upstream in response to warming downstream river temperatures.  However, in the process they may encounter upstream limits, which are likely to be exacerbated by increased hydrologic variability if upstream locations draining small basins switch from perennial to ephemeral flow, with important but currently unknown implications for coldwater habitat and stream fish populations.  In this project, we will look at the current determinants of upstream limitation for Eastern Brook Trout in several (8-10 large watersheds) throughout their native range, and use hydrologic models and GIS analysis to predict future upstream limits and consequent habitat distributions under climate change scenarios. We have identified key climate-associated drivers of brook trout occupancy, abundance and population dynamics

Project

Coldwater stream habitats are at risk from climate change, but management actions, such as removing barriers to passage and restoring riparian forest canopies, can in some cases help to ameliorate negative impacts.  Our overall goal is to devise and implement decision-support tools to help managers make climate-appropriate management choices.  We are currently working on several different approaches to this problem.  First, we are working to improve stream temperature predictions and incorporate stream thermal resilience into models for prioritizing barrier removal.  Second, we are using remotely-sensed data on riparian forest cover in combination with temperature vulnerability models to help managers target appropriate areas for riparian restoration.  To make the results of both of these efforts readily available to the management community, we have developed a website which incorporates these and other decision-support tools

Project

There is growing evidence that headwater stream ecosystems are especially vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but their conservation is challenged by the need to address the threats at a landscape scale, often through coordination with multiple management agencies and landowners. This project sought to provide an example of cooperative landscape decision-making by addressing the conservation of headwater stream ecosystems in the face of climate change at the watershed scale. Predictive models were built for critical resources to examine the effects of the potential alternative actions on the objectives, taking account of climate effects and examining whether there were key uncertainties that impede decision making.  Results provide decision analyses that are (1) relevant to the management partners in question; (2) emblematic of landscape-scale cooperative decisions; and (3) sensitive to the practical consequences of climate change

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