NorEaST – Stream Temperature Web Portal Demonstration and Application

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Screenshot of the NorEaST web tool

Climate change is expected to alter stream temperature and flow regimes over the coming decades, and in turn influence distributions of aquatic species in those freshwater ecosystems.

 To better anticipate these changes, there is a need to compile both short- and long-term stream temperature data for managers to gain an understanding of baseline conditions, historic trends, and future projections. Unfortunately, many agencies lack sufficient resources to compile, conduct quality assurance and control, and make accessible stream temperature data collected through routine monitoring.  Yet, pooled data from multiple sources, even if temporally and spatially inconsistent, can have great value both in the realm of stream temperature and aquatic response. The NorEaST web portal was developed to meet this need, serving as a coordinated, multi-agency regional framework to map and store continuous stream temperature locations and data for New England, Mid Atlantic, and Great Lakes States. 
NorEaST consists of:
A mapper - where the public can view locations and metadata for current and historic stream temperature monitoring sites
A database - where data stewards can store and manage their data
Web services - to connect, communicate, and serve data for use in analysis and applications
Currently, stream temperature monitoring locations and metadata can be viewed for more than 10,000 monitoring locations across 30 states, contributed by 40 different organizations. Organizations collecting continuous stream temperature data can request to become NorEaST users, data stewards can use the web portal to store and manage their organization’s continuous stream temperature data. 
To demonstrate the utility of large scale, consistent stream temperature data for use in regional analyses and decision-making, stream temperature data collected as part of the NorEaST project were used in three different targeted applications including: 
Generating stream thermal metrics
Analyzing fish species response to stream thermal metrics
Evaluating stream temperature modeling approaches for use by aquatic resource managers 
Projected changes in climate that may vary regionally and seasonally suggest that stream temperature data from all seasons may prove valuable to management agencies in adapting to climate changes, yet the vast majority of stream water temperature data are collected during the summer season. Results of fish species response to thermal metrics indicate that indicate high summer water temperatures had the most significant associations with fish species across ecoregions.  While trends were variable, fall magnitude metrics were associated with many fish species, and we also saw many fish species showing significant associations with temperature variability, expressed by either monthly or seasonal ranges or coefficients of variation. Given the finding of association between thermal metrics and fish species, additional attention is needed to consider seasons other than summer, as well as year-round monitoring and to consider other thermal characteristics besides magnitude.
Significant outreach was conducted by the NorEaST team to gain feedback and promote the project, which has led to increased participation by many governmental and other organizations to actively load their continuous stream and air temperature data sets into the portal. Overall, the NorEaST portal provides a standardized regional framework that will help coordinate and leverage monitoring efforts and data across agencies, help improve data quality, prevent data loss, and provide opportunities for regional analyses. 
Resource managers plan to use these data for understanding baseline conditions, historic trends, and future projections of the impacts of climate change on water temperature, and in turn on aquatic biota in freshwater ecosystems. In addition, agencies are collecting these data to assess the effects of water diversions/withdrawals, evaluate the potential effects of dam removal, assess the effects of channel alterations and thermal loading to streams, and to evaluate habitat improvement projects. 
The NorEaST web portal continues to seek partners and collaborators to help support ongoing development and improvements, long term operation and maintenance, and to ensure the benefits and stability of the data portal into the future.