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Sci Total Environ ; 755(Pt 2): 142503, 2020 Sep 25.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33045606

RESUMO

Changes in climate are known to alter air temperature and precipitation and their associated thermal and hydrological regimes of freshwater systems, and such alterations in habitat are anticipated to modify fish composition in fluvial systems. Despite these expected changes, assessing climate change effects on habitat and fish over large regions has proven challenging. The goal of this study is to describe an approach to assess and identify stream reaches within a large region that are susceptible to climate changes based on responses of multiple fish species to changes in thermal and hydrological habitats occurring with changes in climate. We present a six-step approach to connect climate, habitat, and fish responses, demonstrated through an example to assess effects of climate change on fishes for all stream reaches in a large U.S. ecoregion (955,029 km2). Step 1 identified measures of air temperature and precipitation expected to change substantially in the future. Step 2 identified the climatic measures strongly associated with stream thermal and hydrologic metrics calculated from measured data from a subset of streams. Step 3 linked thermal and hydrologic metrics identified in Step 2 with abundances of fish species from the same stream reaches, and these fishes were combined into groups based on similar associations with specific thermal or hydrologic metrics. Step 4 used the linkages between fish groups and climatic measures and their associated thermal and hydrologic metrics to classify stream reaches. Step 5 assigned all stream reaches into classes based on the established classification under current climate measures and then re-assigned all stream reaches using projected climatic measures for three future time windows. Step 6 assessed changes in classes of stream reaches between current and future climate conditions. Stream reaches projected to change in stream classes were considered "vulnerable" to future climate change, as they would no longer support the same fish composition. The projected vulnerable streams for the years 2040, 2060, and 2090 were mapped and summarized to identify temporal patterns and identify their spatial distribution, along with underlying mechanisms leading to changes. Our results showed that 45.7% of the 320,000 reaches and 49.3% of the overall 650,000 km stream length in the study region were expected to change stream class by the year 2090, with spatially-explicit changes including streams' responding to changing air temperature or precipitation. This study provides critical guidance for integrating climate projections, landscape factors, stream habitat data, and fish data into a meaningful approach for understanding linkage. Outcomes greatly improve our ability to describe habitat changes at a stream reach scale throughout large regions, and they can aid in prioritizing management strategies to adapt to climate change at local and regional scales.

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