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Stream Temperature Surges Under Urbanization and Climate Change: Data, Models, and Responses1

Authors

  • Kären C. Nelson,

    1. Faculty Research Assistant, Department of Entomology, PLS 4112, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742-4454
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  • Margaret A. Palmer

    1. Faculty Research Assistant, Department of Entomology, PLS 4112, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742-4454
    2. Laboratory Director, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 1 Williams Street, Solomons, Maryland 20688
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  • 1

    Paper No. J05088 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).

(E-Mail/Nelson: kanelson@umd.edu).

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Multiple anthropogenic stressors, including increased watershed imperviousness, destruction of the riparian vegetation, increased siltation, and changes in climate, will impact streams over the coming century. These stressors will alter water temperature, thus influencing ecological processes and stream biota. Quantitative tools are needed to predict the magnitude and direction of altered thermal regimes. Here, empirical relationships were derived to complement a simple model of in-stream temperature [developed by Caissie et al. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering25 (1998) 250; Journal of Hydrology251 (2001) 14], including seasonal temperature shifts linked to land use, and temperature surges linked to localized rainstorms; surges in temperature averaged about 3.5°C and dissipated over about 3 h. These temperature surges occurred frequently at the most urbanized sites (up to 10% of summer days) and could briefly increase maximum temperature by >7°C. The combination of empirical relationships and model show that headwater streams may be more pervasively impacted by urbanization than by climate change, although the two stressors reinforce each other. A profound community shift, from common cold and coolwater species to some of the many warmwater species currently present in smaller numbers, may be expected, as shown by a count of days on which temperature exceeds the “good growth” range for coldwater species.

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