EPA Region 10 Climate Change and TMDL Pilot - Qualitative Assessment: Evaluating the Impacts of Climate Change on Endangered Species Act Recovery Actions for the South Fork Nooksack River, WA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 and EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) and Office of Water (OW) have launched a pilot research project to consider how projected climate change impacts could be incorporated into a total maximum daily load (TMDL) program and influence restoration plans. The pilot research project will use a temperature TMDL being developed for the South Fork Nooksack River (SFNR), in Washington, as the pilot TMDL for a climate change analysis. An overarching goal of the pilot research project is to ensure that relevant findings and methodologies related to climate change are incorporated into the the SFNR Temperaure TMDL in such a way that the regulatory objectives and timelines of the TMDL are also met. 

Becuase of the collaborative nature of this project, the project objectives have been specified for EPA Region 10 and OW, and for EPA ORD. The pilot research project objectives are summarized below. 

Climate Adaptation and Action Plan for the Norton Bay Watershed, Alaska

The changing weather patterns in Alaska are, already, having substantial impacts on Native Alaskan village communities. Increased stream temperatures combined with other climate change related impacts of high river flows, altered ice flows and stream bank erosion, all combine with mining and related development in the Norton Bay Watershed (Watershed) to directly threaten the fishery and wildlife habitat upon which the Native Villages in the area (Villages) depend for their subsistence fishing and hunting. In addition, reduced water flows in the Watershed caused by water diversions from mining and other development activity are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. This can increase water temperatures and impair fish and wildlife habitat.

The Norton Bay Intertribal Watershed Council has developed this adaptation plan as the first step in the long range goal of addressing the many serious consequences of climate change and other non-climate stressors to the landscape and waters of the Norton Bay Watershed. Through a year- long assessment and planning process, the Council has documented the current and future risks, identified potential opportunities to adapt to climate impacts, and put forth here a plan that outlines specific goals, objectives, and action steps necessary to begin to address these urgent needs for the benefit of the four native villages living in Norton Bay and the surrounding ecosystems on which they depend. In addition, this plan can serve as a model for similar adaptation efforts needed across the Alaskan landscape.

Flood and Erosion Hazard Assessment for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe Phase 1 Report for the Sauk River Climate Impacts Study

The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe initiated a pilot study to assess the impacts of anticipated climate changes to both tribal infrastructure and the Sauk river ecosystem that supports fish and wildlife critical to the tribe. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe’s homeland encompasses a broad area including the Sauk and Cascade River watersheds in northwestern Washington. The Sauk River is a large meandering alluvial river that flows north into the Skagit River. Sauk River Miles (RM) start at its confluence with the Skagit. The Tribe’s reservation is located on an alluvial terrace within the Sauk River valley at RM 14, five miles north (downstream) of Darrington and one mile south of the Suiattle River confluence (Figure 1). In the 1940s the main channel of the Sauk River flowed on the eastern side of the reservation, directly adjacent to current residential housing. This old channel was still active and clearly evident in 1954 (Figure 2). In the last 60 years the river’s main channel has been located on the eastern side of the valley but between 1989 and 2013 it has migrated back to the west, toward the reservation, at an average rate of 43 ft/yr (Figure 3). Un-interrupted at this rate, the river would reach housing within 25 years. This could potentially happen much sooner given the old 1940s channel could be rapidly re-occupied by the river (Snohomish County Surface Water Management 2009). The alluvial terrace underlying tribal housing, offices and community buildings is easily erodible and thus at serious risk given the river’s tendency to migrate (Figure 3). The Tribe wanted to know whether the warming climate could worsen flood and erosion risks, and whether changes could adversely impact salmon habitat. This report focuses on flood an erosion risks and how they may be impacted by climate change.

Natural Systems Design, Inc. (NSD) prepared this report for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe as part of the first phase of an interdisciplinary effort designed to contribute critical understanding of Sauk River ecosystem dynamics and sensitivity to climatic changes. The objectives of this report are to: (1) describe the hydrology and geomorphology the Sauk River near the reservation, (2) evaluate available information on potential for climate change to affect future flood flows in the Sauk River basin, (2) document historical changes in river channel and floodplain characteristics of the Sauk-Suiattle Reach, and (3) evaluate the near- term and future threats to tribal infrastructure posed by Sauk River streambank erosion and flooding.

Clearwater River Subbasin (ID) Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The Clearwater River Subbasin comprises much of the original homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) and still is the largest population center for the Tribe. Historically, the Nez Perce people were hunters and gatherers and thrived on abundant salmon, elk and deer, camas and other roots and berries. The protection of these resources is a fundamental mission of the Nez Perce Tribe. The first documented non-Indians to traverse this area were members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, who paddled down the Clearwater River in dugout canoes in 1805. Subsequently, other early explorers and fur traders used the Clearwater River as a convenient westward route. Henry Spalding established a mission near present-day Lapwai in the 1830s. The discovery of gold on a tributary to the Clearwater River brought in large numbers of settlers. Agriculture and logging became the main economic activities in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century (Sobota 2001). Because of dams built on the Columbia River and tributaries to the Clearwater River in the 20th century, salmon and steelhead runs have been drastically reduced from historical levels. Today, agriculture, timber production and mining are still important for the region, but recreation and tourism have also become major industries.

The adaptation plan developed strategies to protect forest habitat and sustainably managed forest industry, protect water quality and quantity, and support long term economic viability for those whose livelihoods are dependent upon natural resources. A range of potential adaptive management actions exist, including the reduction of existing fuel loads in forests to lower the risk of high severity fires, increasing ecosystem connectivity to facilitate species migration and conserving and restoring adequate aquatic habitat to support ecosystem functions, to name a few.

Assessing and enabling climate change adaptation in Nature Improvement Areas

The adaptation of the natural environment to climate change is well developed in theory and adaptation principles have been published. However, there are still a number of challenges in implementing practical adaptation measures on the ground.

Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) are major landscape scale conservation initiatives in twelve priority areas of England. They provide an opportunity to build climate change adaptation into major conservation initiatives at an early stage and at an appropriate scale, as well as an opportunity to learn how people and organisations can best work together to enable adaptation. Recognising these opportunities, Natural England, working on behalf of a partnership including Defra, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission, commissioned this report to assess and facilitate climate change adaptation in NIAs.

Forest Adaptation Resources: climate change tools and approaches for land managers, 2nd edition

Forests across the United States are expected to undergo numerous changes in response to the changing climate. This second edition of the Forest Adaptation Resources provides a collection of resources designed to help forest managers incorporate climate change considerations into management and devise adaptation tactics. It was developed as part of the Climate Change Response Framework and reflects the expertise, creativity, and feedback of dozens of direct contributors and hundreds of users of the first edition over the last several years (see http://dx.doi.org/10.2737/NRS-GTR-87). Six interrelated chapters include: (1) a description of the overarching Climate Change Response Framework, which generated these resources; (2) a brief guide to help forest managers judge or initiate vulnerability assessments; (3) a "menu" of adaptation strategies and approaches that are directly relevant to forests of the Northeast and upper Midwest; (4) a second menu of adaptation strategies and approaches oriented to urban forests; (5) a workbook process with step-by-step instructions to assist land managers in developing on-the-ground climate adaptation tactics that address their management objectives; and (6) several real-world examples of how these resources have been used to develop adaptation tactics. The ideas, tools, and resources presented in the different chapters are intended to inform and support existing decisionmaking processes of multiple organizations with diverse management goals.

A Three-Step Decision Support Framework for Climate Adaptation: Selecting Climate-Informed Conservation Goals and Strategies for Native Salmonids in the Northern U.S. Rockies

The impact of climate change on cold-water ecosystems—and the cold-adapted native salmonids present in these systems—is the subject of a substantial body of research.. Recently, scientists have developed a number of datasets and analyses that provide insight into projections of climate change e ects on native salmonid populations in the northern U.S. Rockies region. Alongside this research, a number of management options for helping native salmonids respond to the e ects of climate change—also known as ‘climate adaptation’ strategies and actions—have been identi ed by scientists and managers in the region. These analyses and climate adaptation options o er valuable information to managers charged with making di cult decisions about where and how to best conserve and restore the region’s native salmonids given the challenges posed by shifting climatic conditions. Yet managers in the region continue to identify challenges in applying available information on climate change impacts, particularly in determining forward-looking conservation goals and selecting appropriate actions from the long menu of available climate adaptation options.


To augment this research and compilation of climate-informed management options, we have developed a decision support framework aimed at helping managers think critically about how to apply climate information to their management decisions. Speci cally, our framework is meant to help managers:

1) articulate an appropriate conservation goal for cold-adapted native salmonid populations taking into account the impacts of climate change on habitat suitability, threats from non-native sh, and connectivity;

2) consider the climate adaptation strategies that might best support that goal; and

3) identify actions that are available to implement the chosen strategies.

Given the complexity and uncertainty of conserving cold-adapted species in an era of rapid climate change and the limited resources available for conservation, choices about where to invest conservation dollars require defensible and transparent decision making. The three-step decision framework we provide here is meant to be a starting point to help managers document how they have incorporated information on climate change into their management decisions and prioritization of limited resources. The process used to develop the framework for native salmonids can be used to tailor decision support for additional conservation targets of interest. Ultimately, managers can integrate this climate change thinking into existing conservation strategies and management plans, alongside the myriad other regulatory, social, economic and locally-driven factors and mandates that in uence management decisions.

IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species' Vulnerability to Climate Change. Version 1.0

Predicting climate change impacts on biodiversity is a major scientific challenge, but doing so is important for assessing extinction risk, developing conservation action plans, providing guidance for laws and regulations, and identifying the mechanisms and patterns of impact to inform climate change adaptation. In the few decades since the threat of climate change has been recognised, the conservation community has begun assessing vulnerability to climate change.

There is no single ‘correct’ or established way to carry out climate change vulnerability assessments (CCVA) of species. A range of methods have been developed, and a large and burgeoning scientific literature is emerging on this subject. This document aims to ease the challenge that conservation practitioners face in interpreting and using the complex and often inconsistent CCVA literature.  The intended target audiences include conservation practitioners (e.g., for CCVA of their focal species or the species in their focal area) and researchers (e.g., for carrying out CCVA to serve conservation, or to evaluate the rigorousness of others’ studies).

These guidelines cover an outline of some of the terms commonly used in CCVA, and describe three dominant CCVA approaches, namely correlative (niche-based), mechanistic and trait-based approaches. This guide is structured to provide readers first with background information on definitions and metrics associated with CCVA. A discussion on identifying CCVA objectives follows, setting the stage for core guidance on selecting and applying appropriate methods. The subsequent sections focus on interpreting and communicating results, as well as suggestions for using results in Red List assessments and addressing the many sources of uncertainty in CCVAs. A final section explores future directions for CCVAs and research needs. The guide ends with ten case studies that provide essentially worked examples of CCVAs that cover the range of methods described.

This guidance document has been developed by a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment working group convened under the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Specialist Group. The authors’ collective experience covers a broad range of ecosystems, taxonomic groups, conservation sectors and geographic regions, and has been supplemented by an extensive literature review. No guidance on this topic can be exhaustive, but nonetheless, this document should provide a useful reference for those wishing to understand and assess climate change impacts on their focal species, at site, site network and/or at broader spatial scales.

Rapid Assessment of the Governance System’s Ability to Respond to Climate Change

The following rapid assessment approach and compiled document were developed to inform the agenda and discussions at the East Coast Climate Change and Fisheries Governance Workshop, March 19-21, 2014 in Washington, DC. This workshop will be hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and was developed in partnership with the New England Fishery Management Council, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA Fisheries, with coordination and facilitation support provided by the Fisheries Leadership & Sustainability Forum (Fisheries Forum).

The purpose of these rapid assessments is to describe the current state of knowledge regarding climate change impacts and concerns for managed fisheries, and in particular to help identify intersections with the workshop focus on management and governance. These initial rapid assessments were completed by council and Commission staff, and represent an investment of their time as well as an effort to share their experience and insight. The assessments are not intended to be comprehensive; rather they are a first pass at gathering information, and will serve as living documents that can be refined and updated over time to incorporate new information and perspectives. 

Shellfish genetics could be the key to climate change adaptation

A recent NOAA study found that by 2040, Alaskan shellfish hatcheries may no longer be sustainable because of ocean acidification, unless serious mitigation efforts are put in place. We recently reported on a hatchery in Oregon that’s become a model for adapting to these different conditions. But the long term solution may actually lie in shellfish genes. Evolution and resiliency are the buzzwords for a sustainable mariculture industry in Alaska, a state that is particularly vulnerable.