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Authors*Michael J. Furniss, Pacific Northwest Research StationKen B. Roby, Lassen National Forest, retiredDan Cenderelli, ...
ASSESSSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDSTO CLIMATE CHANGE:Results of National Forest Watershed Vulnerability Pilot Asses...
CONTENTSTHE CHALLENGE .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  ....
1 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGETHE CHALLENGEWater and its availability and quality will be...
2 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEstaff; the task group included representation from twoResea...
3 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEFigure 1. Location of National Forests participating in the...
4 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGESteps in the Watershed Vulnerability Assessments1.	 Identif...
5 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEAssessment Principle One: Use Resource Valuesto Focus the A...
6 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe evaluation of water resources resulted in mapsand descr...
7 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe Pilot Assessments were conducted over relativelylarge g...
8 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEUsing Historic DataOne finding consistent to all the pilots...
9 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEfor evaluations conducted in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. The...
10 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGENF (Region 8) relied on information from The NatureConserv...
11 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEbetween exposure and water resources, the evaluationserved...
12 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGElevel of uncertainty. Though there may be uncertaintyin ch...
13 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEdetermine changes in groundwater levels and flow ratesto l...
14 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEclimate (Casola et al. 2005). Only the Sawtooth NFapplied ...
15 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEIntrinsic AnthropogenicGeology Road DensitySoil Types Road...
16 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEsensitivity. Most were derived from the WatershedCondition...
17 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEapproach to combining and categorizing sensitivity, intoa ...
18 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe sensitivity evaluation typically resulted in mapsshowi...
19 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGE0 5 10 20 MilesWatershed RankingWater UsesNSEWLegendWater ...
20 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEin exposure. The result of combining these elements is acl...
21 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEthat exist presently, and those projected to result fromcl...
22 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEhighest priority for management actions. If, for instance,...
23 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEImportant Considerations inApplying the Assessment Results...
24 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEto information affected the assessments and shareadditiona...
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
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Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change
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Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change

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Furniss, Michael J.; Roby, Ken B.; Cenderelli, Dan; Chatel, John; Clifton, Caty F.;
Clingenpeel, Alan; Hays, Polly E.; Higgins, Dale; Hodges, Ken; Howe, Carol;
Jungst, Laura; Louie, Joan; Mai, Christine; Martinez, Ralph; Overton, Kerry;
Staab, Brian P.; Steinke, Rory; Weinhold, Mark. 2013. Assessing the vulnerability
of watersheds to climate change: results of national forest watershed vulnerability
pilot assessments. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-884. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 32 p. plus appendix.
Existing models and predictions project serious changes to worldwide hydrologic processes as a result of global climate change. Projections indicate that significant change may threaten National Forest System watersheds that are an important source of water used to support people, economies, and ecosystems.
Wildland managers are expected to anticipate and respond to these threats, adjusting
management priorities and actions. Because watersheds differ greatly in: (1) the values they support, (2) their exposure to climatic changes, and (3) their sensitivity to climatic changes, understanding these differences will help inform the setting of priorities and selection of management approaches. Drawing distinctions in climate change vulnerability among watersheds on a national forest or grassland allows more efficient and effective allocation of resources and better land and watershed stewardship.
Eleven national forests from throughout the United States, representing each of the
nine Forest Service regions, conducted assessments of potential hydrologic change resulting from ongoing and expected climate warming. A pilot assessment approach was developedand implemented. Each national forest identified water resources important in that area, assessed climate change exposure and watershed sensitivity, and evaluated the relative vulnerabilities of watersheds to climate change. The assessments provided management recommendations to anticipate and respond to projected climate-hydrologic changes. Completed assessments differed in level of detail, but all assessments identified priority areas and management actions to maintain or improve watershed resilience in response to a changing climate. The pilot efforts also identified key principles important to conducting future vulnerability assessments.

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Transcript of "Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds to Climate Change"

  1. 1. Authors*Michael J. Furniss, Pacific Northwest Research StationKen B. Roby, Lassen National Forest, retiredDan Cenderelli, Stream Systems Technology CenterJohn Chatel, Sawtooth National ForestCaty F. Clifton, Umatilla National ForestAlan Clingenpeel, Quachita National ForestPolly E. Hays, Rocky Mountain Regional OfficeDale Higgins, Chequamegon-Nicolet National ForestKen Hodges, Chugach National ForestCarol Howe, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, andGunnison National ForestsLaura Jungst, Helena National ForestJoan Louie, Gallatin National ForestChristine Mai, Shasta-Trinity National ForestRalph Martinez, Plumas National ForestKerry Overton, Rocky Mountain Research StationBrian P. Staab, Pacific Northwest RegionRory Steinke, Coconino National ForestMark Weinhold, White River National Forest* All are USDA Forest Service, with units specifiedContributors and Reviewers**Christopher P. Carlson, Washington Office National Forest SystemJim Morrison, Northern Regional OfficeJanine Rice, Rocky Mountain Research StationJeremy Littel, Climate Impacts Group, University of WashingtonDan Isaak, Rocky Mountain Research StationCharlie H. Luce, Rocky Mountain Research StationLinda Joyce, Rocky Mountain Research StationDavid Cleaves, Washington Office Research and DevelopmentSherry Hazelhurst, Washington Office National Forest SystemSarah J. Hines, Rocky Mountain Research StationJohn Potyondy, Stream Systems Technology CenterRyan Foote, Lassen National ForestAnn Rosecrance, Ventura River Watershed CouncilDerik Olson, Council on Environmental Quality** All are USDA Forest Service, with units specified,except Jeremy Littel. Ann Rosecrance, and Derik OlsonDesign and LayoutApril Kimmerly, Peters Kimmerly Design AssociatesMargaret LivingstonCover PhotographNorth Pole Basin, Sopris Ranger District, White River National Forest,by Cindy Dean, White River National ForestAUTHORS AND CONTRIBUTORSThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discriminationin all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, nationalorigin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status,familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, geneticinformation, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of anindividual’s income is derived from any public assistance program.(Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons withdisabilities who require alternative means for communication ofprogram information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) shouldcontact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Officeof Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.Recommended CitationMichael J. Furniss, Roby, Ken B., Cenderelli, Dan; Chatel, John; Clifton, Caty F.;Clingenpeel, Alan; Hays, Polly E.; Higgins, Dale; Hodges, Ken; Howe, Carol; Jungst,Laura; Louie, Joan; Mai, S Christine; Martinez, Ralph; Overton, Kerry; Staab, Brian P.;Steinke, Rory; Weinhold, Mark. 2012. Assessing the Vulnerability of Watersheds toClimate Change: Results of National Forest Watershed Vulnerability Pilot Assessments.Climate Change Resource Center. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service 305p.www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/wvaOnline Presentations by the pilot National ForestsTwo sets of oral presentations that describe the analyses were conducted and recorded:1) An early set of detailed presentations by each pilot National Forest, presented toother pilot Forest staff in Salt Lake City in September of 2010, can be found here:==> www.fsl.orst.edu/fs-pnw/wva/ Presentations are ~50 minutes each, and reflectanalyses-in-progress.2) A series of 3 webinars were given in Januay and February of 2012 by each of the pilotNational Forests. These are more advanced and refined than the previous set, but areshorter and have less detail. Basic recordings of the webinars may be found here:==> www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/livelearn/wva/
  2. 2. ASSESSSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDSTO CLIMATE CHANGE:Results of National Forest Watershed Vulnerability Pilot AssessmentsABSTRACTExisting models and predictions project serious changes toworldwide hydrologic processes as a result of global climatechange. Projections indicate that significant change may threatenNational Forest System watersheds that are an important source ofwater used to support people, economies, and ecosystems.Wildland managers are expected to anticipate and respond tothese threats, adjusting management priorities and actions.Because watersheds differ greatly in: (1) the values they support;(2) their exposure to climatic changes; and (3) their sensitivity toclimatic changes, understanding these differences will help informthe setting of priorities and selection of management approaches.Drawing distinctions in climate change vulnerability amongwatersheds on a National Forest or Grassland allows more efficientand effective allocation of resources and better land and watershedstewardship.Eleven National Forests from throughout the United States,representing each of the nine Forest Service regions, conductedassessments of potential hydrologic change due to ongoing andexpected climate warming. A pilot assessment approach wasdeveloped and implemented. Each National Forest identifiedwater resources important in that area, assessed climate changeexposure and watershed sensitivity, and evaluated the relativevulnerabilities of watersheds to climate change. The assessmentsprovided management recommendations to anticipate and respondto projected climate-hydrologic changes.Completed assessments differed in level of detail, but allassessments identified priority areas and management actionsto maintain or improve watershed resilience in response to achanging climate. The pilot efforts also identified key principlesimportant to conducting future vulnerability assessments.
  3. 3. CONTENTSTHE CHALLENGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1WATERSHED CONDITION, RESILIENCE, AND HEALTH...WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2THE PILOT ASSESSMENT APPROACH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2IDENTIFY WATER RESOURCE VALUES AND SCALES OF ANALYSIS. . . . . . . 4Water Resource Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4Scale(s) of Analysis and Reporting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6ASSESS EXPOSURE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7Using Historic Data. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7Climate Change Projections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8Evaluating Hydrologic Changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10Applying Exposure Projections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11EVALUATE WATERSHED SENSITIVITY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14EVALUATE AND CATEGORIZE VULNERABILITY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18IDENTIFY ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT RESPONSES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20CRITIQUE THE ASSESSMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23Data Gaps and Uncertainty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23Other Lessons Learned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24SUMMARY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25REFERENCES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26NATIONAL FOREST REPORTS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28Northern Region (R1): Gallatin National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30Northern Region (R1): Helena National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46Rocky Mountain Region (R2): Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, andGunnison National Forests. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64Rocky Mountain Region (R2): White River National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . 112Southwest Region (R3): Coconino National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130Intermountain Region (R4): Sawtooth National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158Pacific Southwest Region (R5): Shasta-Trinity National Forest. . . . . . . . 185Pacific Northwest Region (R6): Umatilla National Forest . . . . . . . . . . . . 210Southern Region (R8): Ouachita National Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226Eastern Region (R9): Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. . . . . . . . . 236Alaska Region (R10): Chugach National Forest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266ASSESSSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDSTO CLIMATE CHANGE:Results of National Forest Watershed Vulnerability Pilot Assessments
  4. 4. 1 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGETHE CHALLENGEWater and its availability and quality will bethe main pressures on, and issues for, societiesand the environment under climate change. —IPCC 2007Climate change poses important challenges to theUS Forest Service (USFS), the agency charged withmanagement of more than 193 million acres of publicforests and grasslands. Current and projected trendsin global warming present risks to a wide range ofecosystem values and services, and the impacts aremost closely associated with water resources, includingchanges in volume, timing, and quality.In response, initial priorities of the USFS climatechange strategy are to build knowledge, skills, andexpertise, and to develop experience and partnerships.These initial steps build toward planning and designingmanagement actions to improve ecosystem resilience(Furniss et al. 2010). In this report, and for the pilotanalysis, the term “resilience” means both the resistanceto adverse changes and the ability of a watershed torecover following adverse changes.Principles of Vulnerability AssessmentDerived from WVA Pilots(detailed in boxes throughout report)1. Use resource values to focus the analysis.2. The HUC-6 is currently the best scale foranalysis and reporting.3. Local climate data provides context.4. Analyze exposure before sensitivity.5. Don’t get lost in exposure data.6. Keep the end product in mind.to implement effective management measures isconstrained by available resources (budgets andstaffing). Priorities that integrate the impacts of climatechange are needed to effectively allocate resources andfocus management activities.Climatic changes are not expressed uniformly across thelandscape. Not all watersheds are equally vulnerable.Some support more water resource values and some areinherently more sensitive to change. Identifying theseimportant differences is critical to setting priorities andidentifying responses for management.Despite these challenges, Forest Service managersare being directed to act. The agency’s climate changestrategy has been launched, and efforts to adapt toclimate change are now a reporting requirement forForest Supervisors. A Climate Change Scorecardmeasures progress made by each National Forestand Grassland in four areas, including assessment ofresource vulnerabilities.Currently there are few examples of assessments thatinform managers about vulnerability of watershedsto climate change. Existing assessments are limitedto analyses of vulnerability of particular species orhabitats (e.g., Gardali 2012). Likewise, existing protocolsfor vulnerability assessments (e.g., Glick et al. 2011)focus primarily on single species or specific biologicalcommunities. Informative examples of place-basedassessments that provide relative ratings of vulnerabilityof watersheds to climate change are not available.In response to this information gap, the ForestService Stream Systems Technology Center fundedthe Watershed Vulnerability Assessment (WVA) Pilotproject to determine if watershed-focused climate changeassessments could be prepared by National Forest staff,using existing data sources. The goal of the pilot projectwas to provide land managers with assessments of therelative vulnerability of watersheds to climate change.The project involved substantial collaboration betweenNational Forest System and Research and DevelopmentClean and abundant water is often considered themost valuable ecosystem service provided by theNational Forests and Grasslands, and most climatechanges affect hydrologic processes. Water fromthese lands is important for domestic, agricultural,and industrial uses, and for hydropower generation.It supports recreational uses and provides crucialhabitat for threatened, endangered, and sensitiveaquatic species.Maintaining or improving resilience is widely acceptedas the best means to adapt to climate change (Williamset al. 2007). Forest Service managers have extensiveexperience in implementing practices that improvewatershed health and resilience, such as restoringconnectivity to aquatic habitats, restoring degradedwetlands, and using prescribed burning to restore fireregimes.While much is known about the hydrologic impacts ofclimate change and the means to improve watershedresilience, linkages to integrate this knowledgeinto existing programs and priorities are needed.The capacity of National Forests and Grasslands
  5. 5. 2 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEstaff; the task group included representation from twoResearch Stations and each Forest Service Region.This report summarizes the pilot effort. Because eachNational Forest System unit has different levels ofstaffing and data availability, the results representa diversity of approaches on how to conduct avulnerability assessment. We provide an overview ofcore assessment components, and highlight similaritiesand differences of the eleven pilot assessments. Wealso share important concepts that emerged duringcompletion of the pilot assessments. These “AssessmentPrinciples” could be applied in assessments in otherNational Forests and Grasslands, and are described inboxes located throughout the report.Each individual pilot assessment is locally based and hasrelevance at local scales. We do not attempt to summarizeall of the findings of these assessments; they are includedas attachments to this report. The assessments representa broad range of conditions similar to those found onNational Forests and Grasslands across the country,and provide examples of approaches for a wide varietyof environmental contexts. Readers are encouragedto review the individual pilot reports for details onmethods used and results produced.WATERSHED CONDITION,HEALTH, AND RESILIENCE...WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, butthey are not entitled to their own facts.—Daniel Patrick Moynihan, US Senator (NY)For the purposes of this report, two frequently usedterms—watershed condition and health—are consideredinterchangeable. Resilience is the capacity of a systemto absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoingchange and still retain the same functions, structure,identity, and feedbacks (Walker et al. 2004). Because theterm “resilience” is used most frequently in the climatechange literature, we have used this term throughoutthis project and report. Watershed resilience can bedescribed as a subset or synthesis of “watershed health”or “watershed condition” (Furniss et al. 2010).The Forest Service has recently published a methodologyto assess watershed condition (defined in box below),and has conducted baseline assessments across theentire 193-million-acre National Forest System (USDA2011a). This national program was initiated concurrentwith the pilot WVAs.THE PILOT ASSESSMENT APPROACHThe scientist is not a person who gives theright answers; he’s the one who asks the rightquestions. —Claude Levi-StraussThe WVA pilot team was composed of watershed andaquatic specialists from each of the nine regions of theForest Service, stationed on eleven National Forests(see Figure 1). The group was supported by a steeringcommittee composed of representatives from twoResearch Stations and two Regional Offices. Pilot“Watershed condition is the state of the physicaland biological characteristics and processes withina watershed that affect the soil and hydrologicfunctions supporting aquatic ecosystems.... Whenwatersheds are functioning properly, they createand sustain functional terrestrial, riparian, aquatic,and wetland habitats that are capable of supportingdiverse populations of native aquatic- and riparian-dependent species. In general, the greater thedeparture from the natural pristine state, the moreimpaired the watershed condition is likely to be....”Watersheds that are functioning properly have fiveimportant characteristics (Williams et al. 1997):1. They provide for high biotic integrity, whichincludes habitats that support adaptive animaland plant communities that reflect naturalprocesses.2. They are resilient and recover rapidly fromnatural and human disturbances.3. They exhibit a high degree of connectivitylongitudinally along the stream, laterally acrossthe floodplain and valley bottom, and verticallybetween surface and subsurface flows.4. They provide important ecosystem services, suchas high quality water, the recharge of streamsand aquifers, the maintenance of ripariancommunities, and the moderation of climatevariability and change.5. They maintain long-term soil productivity.From the USFS Watershed Condition Framework(USDA 2011b)
  6. 6. 3 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEFigure 1. Location of National Forests participating in the Watershed Vulnerability Pilot Assessments. Coordinationwas provided by representatives from Regional Office Staffs in Regions 2 and 6, and the Pacific Northwest and RockyMountain Research Stations. Note that the GMUG comprises the Grand Mesa, Uncomgahgre, and Gunnison NationalForests. A parallel WVA was conducted on the Shoshone NF (Rice et al. 2012) and coordinated with the core WVA groupof 11 pilots.National Forests were selected to provide a range ofwater resource issues and environmental factors, andeach National Forest brought different levels of staffing,expertise, and existing information to the project. Afew pilot Forests had taken initial steps to consider howclimate change might impact management priorities,though most had not. The goal was to conduct pilotassessments with a range of analytical rigor, in differentgeographic settings and organizational structures, withvarying subject-matter focus.The pilot team and steering committee met to develop amethodology to guide the assessments. The initial stepwas to define the purpose of the assessments, which wasto identify (for each unit) areas with highest priority forimplementing actions to maintain or improve watershedresilience. This approach is based on two assumptions.The first is that there is a strong correlation between thecondition and resilience of watersheds, with watershedsin better condition displaying more resilience thancomparable watersheds in poor condition. The secondassumption is that climate change is one of manyfactors, both natural and anthropogenic, that affecthydrology and watershed condition. A conceptualmodel illustrating these factors and linkages isdisplayed in Figure 2.The objective of the pilot assessments stemmed fromthe need to prioritize where to concentrate managementactivities to improve or maintain resilience. Comparinganalysis options against this objective helped NationalForest staff focus their efforts.The process was intended to produce useful resultswith differing levels of data availability and resourceinvestment. Given the variety of watershed types, waterresource issues, experience, and data availability on thepilot Forests, a flexible assessment method was needed.The team developed an analysis method that reliedheavily on previous experience with Watershed Analysis(USFS 1995) and the basic model of vulnerability (Figure2). The assessment steps are summarized in the box below.
  7. 7. 4 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGESteps in the Watershed Vulnerability Assessments1. Identify water resource values and scales ofanalysis2. Assess exposure3. Evaluate watershed sensitivity4. Evaluate and categorize vulnerability5. Identify adaptive management responses6. Critique the assessmentThe pilot assessments benefited from having leadersidentified at the outset of the project. Leaderscoordinated the assessment on their units, and at timesacted as a one-person analysis team. A defined projectleader was important in making key decisions on whatto include in the assessment, identifying availabledata, determining how to analyze the information, andmaking adjustments when necessary.Each pilot Forest took a slightly different approach,depending on the resources selected for analysis, thetype and amount of data available, and the staff timethat could be devoted to analysis. After the assessmentswere initiated, the pilot team met monthly via videoconference to discuss progress and share ideas andapproaches. These discussions led to changes in thestepwise process and to the methods used in individualassessments.For the WVA, vulnerability was defined as the interactionof climatic exposure with values at risk and watershedsensitivity. In the framework model, management actionsare intended to increase the resilience or buffering capacityof watersheds by modifying the effect of stressors thatdecrease resilience. Each of the primary components ofthe assessment: values, exposure, sensitivity, vulnerability,and application and lessons learned from applying theconceptual model, are further described below.IDENTIFY WATER RESOURCEVALUES AND SCALES OFANALYSISEcosystem management is most successfulwhen it considers and connects all spatial andtemporal scales. For collaborative analysis,a specific scale and unit of land must bechosen, but this does not imply that only thecollaborative analysis scale matters: they allmatter. —The authorsWater Resource ValuesIdentifying the water resources to be included is vitalto the overall assessment. Water resources are the prismthrough which all the other assessment steps are viewedand focused. For example, factors used to characterizesensitivity and exposure are selected because they havestrong linkages or they most directly affect the selectedwater resources.Each pilot Forest considered including assessment ofat least three designated water resource values in theirassessments. These were aquatic species, water uses(diversions and improvements), and infrastructure. TheFigure 2. Conceptual model for assessing vulnerability, showing linkages between exposure, values, and systemcondition (sensitivity). We found utility in separating 3 components of sensitivity. “Buffers” and “stressors” are human-induced, while intrinsic sensitivity is based on inherent characteristics independent of human inf luence.
  8. 8. 5 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEAssessment Principle One: Use Resource Valuesto Focus the AnalysisOne of the major challenges in conducting abroad-scale analysis is deciding what to address.The land areas under consideration are large andecosystems and social systems are extremelycomplex. Narrowing the focus of the pilotassessments was considered essential and wasachieved by identifying key water resource issuesusing iterative analyses.One aspect of the approach instrumental infocussing the pilot efforts was using waterresource values, identified at the outset, to drivethe assessment. Once resources of concern areidentified, assessment questions are narrowed.The question then is not what exposure attributesto use, but what exposure attributes have thestrongest effect on the resource value. Likewise,the question “What elements influence watershedsensitivity?” narrows to “What watershedsensitivity elements most strongly influence thewater resource?”Using a specific set of resource values as theprism through which exposure and sensitivitywere evaluated also provided for comparisonof responses between resource values. Often,analysts found commonality among resourcesand were able to combine resources and methodsto streamline the assessment.rationale was that climate change would influence theseresources in different ways, and that including them inthe pilot analysis would broaden the range of analyticalmethods and approaches.Given this objective, each pilot Forest selected waterresource values based on their importance and perceivedsusceptibility to climate changes. All pilot Forestsincluded aquatic species (or habitat for selected aquaticspecies) and infrastructure in their analyses. Eight of the11 pilot Forests included the vulnerability of water uses intheir assessments. The water resources addressed by eachpilot Forest, and the reporting scale, are listed in Table 1.The species (and aquatic habitats) selected for analysisrepresent the range of aquatic habitats found on thepilot Forests. Anadromous fishes were a focus on eachNational Forest where they occurred. Other salmonidsincluded in the analyses were red-band trout, bull trout,brook trout, and three species of cutthroat trout. Brooktrout are of note: they were a resource of concern withintheir historic habitat on the Chequamegon-NicoletNFs, and a stressor (invasive species) on several of thewestern pilot Forests. Other fishes included as resourceissues were warm water species on the Ouachita andCoconino NFs. Amphibian species and habitat wereincluded in three analyses.Region National Forest Scale of Analysis Reporting Scale Water Resource Issues1 Gallatin National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) Westslope cutthroat trout,Yellowstone cutthroat trout, wateruses, infrastructure1 Helena National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) Westslope cutthroat trout, bulltrout, recreational fisheries,infrastructure2 GMUG National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) aquatic habitats and species, wateruses, infrastructure2 White River National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) boreal toad and cutthroat trouthabitat, water uses, infrastructure3 Coconino Five HUC-5watershedsHUC-6 (subwatershed) amphibians, stream and riparianhabitat, water uses, infrastructure4 Sawtooth Recreation Area HUC-6 (subwatershed) salmon, bull trout, water uses,infrastructure5 Shasta-Trinity National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) springs, salmon, redband trout,water uses, infrastructure6 Umatilla National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) springs, salmon, bull trout, wateruses, infrastructure8 Ouachita National Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) warm water fishes, infrastructure9 Chequamegon-NicoletNational Forest HUC-6 (subwatershed) wetlands; cold, cool, and warmwaterfishes; groundwater, infrastructure10 Chugach Eyak Lake andResurrection CrkWatershedsHUC-6 (subwatershed) salmon, hydropower, infrastructureTable 1. Water Resource issues, scope of analysis, and reporting scales included in pilot assessments
  9. 9. 6 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe evaluation of water resources resulted in mapsand descriptions displaying the location and relativeimportance by subwatersheds for each resource orcombination of resources. For example, the Shasta-Trinity NF analyzed the density of springs and smalllakes at three watershed scales (Figure 3). The SawtoothNF displayed the relative importance of infrastructure(road crossings and near-stream recreation facilities) bysubwatershed in the Sawtooth National Recreation AreaFigure 3. Density of springs and small lakes on the Shasta-Trinity NFs. Results are shown for HUC-4 (left), HUC‑5(middle), and HUC-6 (right) scales. The Shasta-Trinity assessment evaluated resource value, sensitivity, and vulner­ability at the three scales, all showing that identifying priority locations for management actions was best done byHUC-6.Figure 4. Amount of infrastructure (roads and developedrecreation facilities) within the Sawtooth NRA. Red-shaded subwatersheds have highest density of infra­struc­ture, yellow show moderate density, and green show thelowest density. Red lines are HUC-4 boundaries.Important Considerations inAssessing Water Resources• Identify partners who can improve the assessmentand engage with them.• Identify the most important places (if possible),categorize their relative values (high, moderate,low), and map them.• Determine what relevant broad-scale evaluations,assessments, and plans are available.• Consider all downstream uses (such as species anddiversions).• Identify any ecological thresholds or risk levels(flow requirements, temperatures, and so on)associated with specific resource values.• As the assessment progresses, look for similarities(and differences) in response of resource valuesand consider grouping resource values whereappropriate.(Figure 4). The characterization of watersheds in termsof the resources they support is an important step in anywatershed planning effort and a first step in informingmanagers where limited resources might be invested.The assessment goal was to identify the most importantplaces, categorize their relative value (high, moderate,low), and map the individual and composite values.Scale(s) of Analysis and Reporting
  10. 10. 7 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe Pilot Assessments were conducted over relativelylarge geographic areas, typically (8 of the 11 pilots) anentire Forest. Three Forests analyzed smaller areas forspecific reasons. The Chugach NF (R-10) focused onsubwatersheds where management activities would bemost influenced by the results of the assessment. TheAssessment Principle Two: The HUC-6 is Currentlythe Best Scale for Analysis and ReportingThe scale for the pilot assessments was notprescribed, but all pilot Forests elected to usethe HUC-6 (subwatershed) scale to characterizeand map results. Climatic exposure data wasoften available, displayed, and assessed at scaleslarger than HUC-6; the work by the Shasta-TrinityNFs demonstrated that HUC-4 and HUC-5 scalesare usually too large to effectively manage forwater values, sensitivity, adaptive capacity, andresilience. The HUC-6 is the appropriate sizefor planning and implementing managementstrategies to sustain or improve watershedcondition. In addition, HUC-6 is also the scaleused to assess and report conditions for theClassification portion of the Watershed ConditionFramework.Coconino NF (R-3) included 5 watersheds (HUC-5) thatsupport the majority of aquatic resources on the Forest.The Sawtooth NF limited its evaluation to the SawtoothNational Recreation Area because it supports remainingstrongholds for steelhead, bull trout, and Chinook andsockeye salmon listed under the Endangered Species Actand significant data were available for this area of theforest.All of the pilot Forests used the subwatershed (HUC-6)scale for analysis and reporting. This arose from theshared conclusion that subwatersheds provide a logicalunit and scale for setting priorities and implementingmanagement activities on National Forest system lands.The Shasta-Trinity NFs also used the HUC-6 as the scaleto apply results of the vulnerability assessment, and, inaddition, evaluated water resource values, watershedsensitivity, and vulnerability at two broader scales(HUC-4 and HUC-5). The results from the Shasta-Trinity suggest that general trends can be expressed atbroader scales, but as might be expected, detail shownat the HUC-6 scale is lost at each higher level (Figure 3).While HUC-6 was determined to be the best reportingunit for displaying water resource values, sensitivity,and vulnerability, exposure information is generallyavailable and appropriately used only at broader scales.As a result, most pilot Forests evaluated exposure at theHUC-5 scale.ASSESS EXPOSURESo why worry about global warming, whichis just one more scale of climate change? Theproblem is that global warming is essentiallyoff the scale of normal in two ways: the rate atwhich this climate change is taking place, andhow different the "new" climate is comparedto what came before. —Anthony D. BarnoskyThe consideration of climate change exposure data is theprimary difference between the WVA and evaluationsthat Forest Service professionals have previouslyproduced. Past assessments have been conductedfor watershed analysis, restoration planning, andwatershed condition. Pilot team members built uponthis experience but few team members had used or werefamiliar with climate change projections.Analysis of exposure included four components: 1) reviewand evaluation of pertinent local historic climatic data,Assessment Principle Three: Local Climate DataProvides ContextLocal or regional examples of historic changesin climate and to valued resources should beincorporated as components of the assessment.Such information (e.g., historic trends intemperature and precipitation, changes in iceduration, or species phenology) can readilyillustrate current influences on water resources.These data are local, and usually of high confidence.Use of local and regional climatological data, fieldobservations, and local knowledge helps to framethe importance of climate change in terms that arebetter understood and appreciated than relyingonly on model-based projections of future climate.2) selection and use of one or two modeled projectionsof future climate conditions, 3) analyses of historic andprojected changes to hydrologic processes that mightaffect water resources, and 4) selection of metrics toanalyze and display differences in exposure across eachanalysis area.
  11. 11. 8 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEUsing Historic DataOne finding consistent to all the pilots was the valueof local historic data in providing local context andunderstanding of climate change. Display of historicchanges with strong connection to local water resourcevalues is typically easier to understand and appreciatethan projections of future conditions. Projectionsare uncertain becaues they are associated with futureemission scenarios and modeling assumptions.Differences between models increase as they areprojected multiple decades into the future and displayhigh variability that may be unsettling to managers.Figure 5. Duration of Ice Cover (days) on Lake Mendotain Wisconsin, 1855-2008SnowDepth(in)Max,Mean&Min25020015010050019451955196519751985199520052015SnowDepth(in)Max,Mean&Min2502001501005001920193019401950196019701980199020002010Klamath ProvinceTrinity BasinWest side of forest(22 stations)Southern CascadesSacramento BasinEast side of forest(19 stations)Figure 6. Changes in average snow depths from snow courses located in the Trinity River basin (1945-2009) and Sacramento River basin (1930-2009). Blue is the mean, red is the minumum, and green is themaximum snow depth.)Historic data helps both analysts and decision-makersby providing local context and trends in climaticconditions.Two examples from the pilot assessments are includedhere. The first shows changes to ice cover on LakeMendota in southern Wisconsin (Figure 5). Thishistorical trend was obtained from the WisconsinInitiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) bythe Chequamegon-Nicolet NF during the assessmentprocess. The second example shows changes in snowdepth from the Trinity and Sacramento River basins inthe Shasta-Trinity NF (Figure 6).Climate Change ProjectionsEvaluation of climate exposure was the most difficultcomponent of the assessment for several pilot Forests,due primarily to lack of experience with downscaledglobal climate modeling data. There were two basicchallenges: deciding which climate change projectionsto use, and selecting the climate metrics.The availability of downscaled climate model data hasincreased substantially since the WVA pilot project wasinitiated. Of particular note is data now available fromthe Climate Impacts Group (CIG) at the University ofWashington. The CIG has evaluated available GlobalCirculation Models (GCMs), and determined whichmodels and ensembles of models produce the best fitwith historic data, for the major river basins of thewestern United States. Data provided by CIG were used
  12. 12. 9 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEfor evaluations conducted in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. TheGMUG NFs used projections from CIG, and additionalprojections for the Upper Gunnison River (Barsugliand Mearns Draft 2010). In retrospect, providing dataavailable from CIG at the outset would have expeditedsome analyses and greatly assisted the process.Increases in temperature (ºF) Percent change in precipitationB1 2050 B1 2080 A1B 2050 A1B 2080 B1 2050 B1 2080 A1B 2050 A1B 2080January 2.70 4.42 4.38 6.00 (0.69) 8.85 5.98 1.68February 3.50 4.01 4.46 5.19 (0.97) (4.50) (2.54) (1.24)March 3.46 4.25 4.70 5.74 (0.75) (4.30) 0.63 (5.17)April 2.99 4.46 4.49 5.93 5.42 2.45 (1.19) 0.67May 3.68 4.48 5.02 7.16 (8.46) (1.28) (6.26) (10.68)June 3.90 4.64 5.34 7.04 (5.87) (7.17) (8.76) (12.37)July 4.14 4.98 5.40 7.28 (8.34) (2.70) (7.39) (12.84)August 4.13 5.04 5.21 6.84 1.20 6.97 1.52 2.61September 4.23 5.49 5.35 7.45 (0.49) 1.10 (3.47) 1.32October 4.12 5.46 5.29 7.15 (13.81) (8.17) (9.75) (8.17)November 3.52 4.36 4.93 6.15 0.91 (5.08) (7.93) (8.75)December 3.18 4.40 4.11 5.97 5.20 (9.39) (1.69) (1.68)Annual 3.63 4.67 4.89 6.49 (2.22) (1.93) (3.40) (4.55)Table 2. Modeled exposure data from the Ouachita NF assessment showing monthly and annual changes in temperatureand precipitation derived from the B1 and A1B climate scenarios and provided by The Nature Conservancy ClimateChange Wizard. Decreases in precipitation are in parentheses.2000 - 2009Resurrection Creek2020 - 2029Resurrection Creek2050 - 2059Resurrection Creek649 - 958958 - 1,0991,099 - 1,1871,187 - 1,3081,308 - 1,438LegendMean 985.28683 - 998998 - 1,0991,099 - 1,1871,187 - 1,3081,308 - 1,438LegendMean 1,017.5775 - 998958 - 1,0991,099 - 1,1871,187 - 1,3081,308 - 1,438LegendMean 1,115.62Figure 7. An example of a downscaled, gridded projection of future climate conditions. The maps display projectedprecipitation (mm). The projections are based on the A1B model. The figure is from the Chugach NF WVA.In Region 2, the White River NF used projections suppliedby the Colorado Water Conservation Boards (Ray et al.2008, Spears et al. 2009). The Shasta-Trinity NFs (Region5) utilized the World Climate Research ProgrammesCoupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3(CMIP3) multi-model dataset. This is a downscaledglobal temperature modeling output available from theUniversity of California, Santa Barbara. The Ouachita
  13. 13. 10 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGENF (Region 8) relied on information from The NatureConservancy’s Climate Change Wizard (Table 2). TheChequamegon-Nicolet NF (Region 9) employed datafrom WICCI, and the Chugach NF (Region 10) utilizedprojections provided by the University of Alaska,Fairbanks (UAF) Scenarios Network for Alaska PlanningProject (Figure 7).All the pilot assessments used air temperature changeprojections in their analyses and most pilots includedprojected changes to precipitation. These projectionswere obtained from the variety of publically availablestate or regional climate sources listed above. Allprojections of future climate are based on GeneralCirculation Models (GCM). These models aremathematical representations of atmospheric andoceanic motion, physics, and chemistry, and employdifferent emission scenarios to yield predictions oftemperature and precipitation change. The global-scale model outputs are very coarse, so data areoften downscaled and used as inputs to macro-scalehydrologic models for use in regional and finer scaleanalysis, such as the WVA pilots. The accuracy of thedata becomes more uncertain with each subsequent layerof modeling. The greatest certainty is associated withair temperature projections. Precipitation projectionsProjected Climatic ChangesAnticipated HydrologicResponsePotential Consequences toWatershed ResourcesWarmer air temperatures • Warmer water temperature instreams• Decrease in coldwater aquatichabitatsChanges in precipitation amountsand timing• Altered timing and volume ofrunoff• Altered erosion rates• Increases or decreases inavailability of water supplies• Complex changes in water qualityrelated to flow and sedimentchangesLess snowfall, earlier snowmelt,increased snowpack density• Higher winter flows• Lower summer flows• Earlier and smaller peak flows inspring• Changes in the amounts, qualityand distribution of aquatic andriparian habitats and biotaIntensified storms, greaterextremes of precipitation and wind• Greater likelihood of flooding• Increased erosion rates andsediment yields• Changes in aquatic and riparianhabitats• Increased damage to roads,campgrounds, and other facilitiesTable 3. Projected hydrologic changes relative to identified values (Helena NF). Adapted from Water, Climate change,and Forests GTR (Furniss et al. 2010).are highly variable, with even less certainty for derivedattributes like snowmelt, runoff, and stream baseflows.Precise changes in hydrologic extremes, such as floodand drought frequency, cannot be credibly modeled atthe stream reach scale at present.The WVA pilot experience points to the value of broaderscale (e.g., Regional) vulnerability analyses in providingexposure data and recommending future climatescenarios to National Forests. Interpreting exposuredata at a broad scale would be useful for several reasons.First, exposure data is not available at finer scales.Second, consistency among National Forests in selectedemissions scenarios and modeling assumptions wouldallow comparisons of expected climate changes acrossNational Forests.Evaluating Hydrologic ChangesUsing projections of future temperatures and otherclimatic changes, most pilot Forests then consideredwhat specific hydrologic changes would result fromprojected climate changes, and how water resourcevalues would be affected by these changes. This stepwas integrative. In addition to the obvious connection
  14. 14. 11 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEbetween exposure and water resources, the evaluationserved to stimulate thinking about which watershedcharacteristics might influence (either moderate orexacerbate) the hydrologic response to climate change,providing a segue to evaluating watershed sensitivity.An example of this type of analysis, which tracksclimate changes through hydrologic responses topotential impacts on water resources from the HelenaNF, is provided in Table 3.Applying Exposure ProjectionsOnce the hydrologic processes important to selectedwater resource values were identified, exposure metricsclosely linked to those processes were identified.The list of metrics used to characterize exposure waslimited because of the commonality in water resourcesin the assessments (Table 4). The selection of exposuremetrics differed among National Forests for threereasons. The first is the water resources themselves.The Chequamegon-Nicolet was the only pilot Forest toinclude assessment of changes to groundwater recharge,and the only pilot Forest to use soil-water balance asan exposure metric. The second difference in selectingmetrics was data availability. Both the Sawtooth NF andUmatilla NF assessments included finer-scaled analysisof potential changes to water temperature in evaluatingchange to bull trout habitat. These analyses were possiblebecause of the availability of stream temperaturedata and predictive models, and the support of theRocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). The thirddifference in exposure metrics was the level of analysis.Differences in the depth of analysis were partly theresult of data availability, as in the example describedabove. But the amount of time team leads could devoteto the assessment was also a factor. Available time andperceived need for detailed analysis were practicalNational Forest Exposure MetricsGallatin Combined flow, Snowpack vulnerabilityHelena Winter water temps, Summer air temps, Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), PrecipitationGMUG Seasonal temperature, Aridity indexOuachita Monthly precipitation and TemperatureWhite River Snowpack vulnerabilitySawtooth Winter peak flows, Summer stream temperature, Summer flowsCoconino Snowpack vulnerabilityShasta-Trinity Air temperature, Stream aspect, Snowpack vulnerabilityUmatilla Winter and summer temperatures, SWEChequamegon-Nicolet Air temperature, Precipitation, Soil water balance, Rainstorm frequency and intensityChugach Air temperature, Precipitation, Freeze and thaw daysTable 4. National Forests and metrics included to evaluate exposure effects in Water Vulnerability AssessmentsAssessment Principle Four: Exposure BeforeSensitivityThe first iteration of the WVA process used in thepilot project called for assessment of sensitivitybefore evaluating exposure. The result wasdevelopment of rather generic sensitivity factorsthat did not have the strongest links to hydrologicprocesses most likely to be affected by climate.Exposure is considered first in order to producea list of the most important hydrologic changesaffecting each water resource. Sensitivityelements that strongly modify these hydrologicchanges are then selected.matters in the exposure analysis. Some pilots choseto make use of more detailed information that wasavailable, and provided metrics with closer links to thesubject water resources. Baseflow, for example, may bemore closely linked with trout habitat than snowpackvulnerability but the decision to conduct more detailedanalysis was largely driven by the anticipated need foradequate detail to rate watersheds and set priorities.Some analysts thought more detailed analysis wouldfurther discriminate areas at risk. Others thought theobjective of rating watersheds could be met adequatelywith coarser evaluation of exposure.There are advantages and limitations to both thecoarser and more detailed approaches to characterizingexposure. The common factor in cases where the mostdetailed analyses were conducted is that they evaluatedeffects on species which, because of population statusand trend, were already the focal point of restorationstrategies and management emphasis. In such cases,additional detail may be warranted. At the same time,exposure is the assessment component with the greatest
  15. 15. 12 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGElevel of uncertainty. Though there may be uncertaintyin characterizing resource value, especially when ratingscomprise more than one resource (for example, frogs plusfish species), descriptions of resource locations generallyhave little error. Likewise, assessments of sensitivity, aswe will see in the next section, are composites of bothintrinsic and anthropogenic factors. Schemes to combineor weigh the factors contain error, relative to how thesefactors are expressed in nature. Nevertheless, theseassessment components are likely to be more accuratethan projections of future temperature and snowpack,especially regarding what will actually occur decadesfrom now.On the White River, Gallatin, and Coconino NFs,changes to snowmelt hydrology were determined tobe the primary hydrologic change affecting selectedresources. In both the White River NF and CoconinoNF assessments, changes to the existing snow line dueto projected temperature increases were anticipated. Thewatershed area within zones of predicted snow elevationchange was used to characterize relative exposureof subwatersheds. The Gallatin NF assessment usedprojected changes in snowpack from the CIG (Figure 8).The Gallatin NF also included assessments of changes tosummer and winter flow (from VIC) in their assessment.A similar approach was taken on the Shasta-Trinity NF.The impact of climate change on stream temperaturesand habitat for salmonids was the focus on fourNational Forests (Umatilla, Sawtooth, Helena, Shasta-Trinity). These pilots employed data that looked deeperat potential hydrologic changes than other assessments.The Chequamegon-Nicolet NFs included a salmonid(brook trout) in their assessment of potential impactsof stream temperature increases on 16 species of cold,cool, and warmwater fishes. In addition to streamtemperature, the Sawtooth NF evaluated potentialchanges to frequency of flood flows critical to bull trouthabitat condition. This evaluation was possible becauseof support from the Rocky Mountain Research Station, aleader in assessing potential climate change impacts onaquatic ecosystems.The Ouachita NF selected aquatic communities as theresource of concern, and identified increased sedimentproduction as the most likely adverse effect to thatresource. Changes in precipitation and temperaturefrom The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Wizard (seeTable 2) were captured by month from the compositeclimate change models. The predicted changes in climatewere then used to modify the climate generator in theWatershed Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) Model(Elliot et al. 1995), which were then used to estimatesediment production under different climatic scenarios.The Chequamegon-Nicolet NFs’ assessment consideredhow climate change might affect important aquatichabitats, including lakes and wetlands. A Soil WaterBalance Model was used to assess how potentialgroundwater recharge might change in the futureand whether any change will differ by soil type. Agroundwater flow model will eventually be used toHistoric 2040s 2080sSnowpack VulnerabilityRainfall DominantTransitionalSnowmelt Dominant to TransitionalTransitional to Rainfall DominantGallatin National Forest5th Level HUCSnowfall DominantChange from HistoricFigure 8. Projected changes in snowpack vulnerability between historic and two futurescenarios, Galatin NF. Data from CIG, using the CIG composite model
  16. 16. 13 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEdetermine changes in groundwater levels and flow ratesto lakes, streams, and wetlands.The analysis on the GMUG NFs differed from otherassessments, in that results were displayed at a large scale.Six large geographic areas, stratified by climatic regimeand elevation, were used for graphical analysis. Projectedchanges to maximum and minimum air temperaturesand an index of aridity were factors used to rate exposurein each of these geographical areas. This analysistechnique was at least partially driven by the resolutionof the downscaled exposure data, which is typically ona grid of 6 km2 (Figure 7). This fairly gross resolutionresults in as few as two or three data points for a HUC-6,making discrimination at this scale inappropriate. As aresult, pilots typically used HUC-6 for distinguishingdifferences in resource densities and sensitivity, overlaidwith a larger-scale rating of exposure.Climate models typically provide predictions oftemperature and precipitation. These data are thencombined with characterizations of watershedcharacteristics and vegetation in modeling ofother hydrologic variables. CIG has also developedpredictions of hydrologic change based on the VariableInfiltration Capacity (VIC) model (Gao et al. in review).The CIG was extremely helpful in releasing data foruse during the pilot study, and in explaining its utilityand limitations. VIC is a distributed, largely physically-based macro-scale model that balances water and energyfluxes at the land surface and takes into account soilmoisture, infiltration, runoff, and baseflow processeswithin vegetation classes. It has been widely used inAssessment Principle Five: Dont Get Lost inExposure DataPilot Forests used exposure data of differentspecificity and detail (for example, in onecase, only air temperature change; in another,predicted stream temperatures). The level ofdetail influenced the analysis, but the take-homemessage is that all levels of exposure projectionsproduced useable vulnerability assessments.Detailed projections at management-relevantscales are not necessary to gauge relativevulnerability of watersheds. It is more productiveto move forward with the analysis than to get lostin the details of refining exposure data.the western U.S. to study past and potential futurechanges to water flow regimes (e.g., Hamlet et al. 2009),snowpacks (Hamlet et al. 2005), and droughts (Luo andWood 2007). Several pilots (Helena, GMUG, Coconino,and Sawtooth NFs) made use of the VIC model outputsto evaluate exposure. VIC attributes evaluated by pilotsincluded runoff, baseflow, and snow water equivalent.Several pilots employed projections of changes to flowcharacteristics. These were selected because of theirimportant influence on habitat for species of concern.Flow metrics were also useful in describing relativeexposure of water uses. In contrast, predictions of peak-and low-flow responses to climate change are limitedand consist primarily of generalized predictions ofhigher peaks and more severe droughts with warmingFigure 9. Winter peak flow risk from Sawtooth NF WVA; current data (at left) and projected data for 2040 (at right).Ratings for subwatersheds are: highest risk (red), moderate risk (yellow), and lowest risk (green). Ratings were developedby assessing change to frequency of highest stream flows occurring during the winter. Red lines are HUC-4 boundaries.
  17. 17. 14 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEclimate (Casola et al. 2005). Only the Sawtooth NFapplied a tool useful in describing exposure relative toincreased peak flows and infrastructure. This analysisused the VIC-generated “Winter 95” metric. Winter 95represents the number of days during winter that areamong the highest 5% of flows for the year. Winter wasdefined as Dec. 1 – Feb. 28. Changes in Winter 95 weredetermined by comparing the increase in the numberof days with the highest 5% flows between current andpredicted conditions (2040 and 2080). Subwatershedswith less than a 0.5-day increase were considered lowrisk, those with 0.5- to 2-day increases were consideredmoderate risk, and subwatersheds with increases greaterthan 2 days were considered high risk. Results of thisanalysis for 2040 are depicted in Figure 9.At first glance, the difference in metrics and the level ofdetail might suggest pilots took very different paths intheir characterization of exposure. In fact, all the pilotsImportant Considerations inEvaluating Exposure• Quantify trends in available, relevant, historicalclimate datasets. Local and regional data thatdisplay significant changes demonstrate thelikelihood that changes will continue into thefuture. Observed changes and trends in ecosystemtraits, such as ice duration, species phenology,and species composition, are of great value.• Use best available climate change projections.Focus on near-term time frames.• Identify the effects of a changing climate onwatershed processes to inform iterations ofexposure data acquisition and assessment.• Identify hydrologic processes important to theidentified resource value.• Determine how projected changes in hydrologicprocesses might affect each resource value.• Quantify the relative magnitude of differences ineffects, including spatial and temporal variability.• Include disturbance regimes in the analysis andquantify disturbance-related effects.• Document critical data gaps, rationale andassumptions for inferences, references fordata sources, and confidence associated withassessment outputs.took very similar approaches. All used review of historicdata to display the trend in local climatic conditions. Allpilot Forests also first looked at projected temperatureand precipitation changes. Sometimes this informationhad been compiled for states, sometimes for river basinsor larger geographical areas. The commonality is thatthe analysis was broad-scale. Next, pilots consideredwhat impacts the climatic changes would have onhydrologic processes, and then how the hydrologicchanges would impact water resources. Differencesin pilot outputs resulted from decisions made at thispoint, primarily influencing the level of detail used tocharacterize the hydrologic changes. Perhaps the mostvaluable lesson learned by pilots in assessing exposurewas that you don’t have to become a climate scientist todo a climate change vulnerability assessment.EVALUATE WATERSHEDSENSITIVITYModels are tools for thinkers, not crutches forthe thoughtless. —Michael SouleThe goal of assessing sensitivity was to place areas(subwatersheds) into categories based on how theywould respond to the expected climate-induced changesto hydrologic processes. The sensitivity of watershedsto any change is partially a function of parent geology,soils, typical climate, topography, and vegetation.Human influences also affect watershed resilience,depending on the extent and location of management-related activities.The Forest Service often evaluates watershed condition;watershed specialists routinely describe watershedcondition in NEPA analyses, and many National Forestshave watershed or aquatic species restoration plans inplace that weigh heavily on assessments of watershedcondition. Several pilots were able to take advantage ofexisting watershed condition ratings and apply them totheir WVA. This included use of the Blue MountainsForest Plan revision watershed condition (Umatilla NF)and “Matrix of Pathways and Indicators” determinationof watershed condition factors in conjunction withEndangered Species Act compliance for severalsalmonid species (Helena, Gallatin and Sawtooth NFs).Sensitivity indicators were selected that most influencedthe hydrologic process and water resource value inquestion. Some indicators tend to dampen effects
  18. 18. 15 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEIntrinsic AnthropogenicGeology Road DensitySoil Types Road-Stream ProximityRisk of Mass Wasting Road CrossingsGroundwater-Baseflow Range ConditionSlope Water DivertedAspect Vegetation ConditionTable 5. Attributes most commonly used in assessingsensitivity by the pilot ForestsGrand MesaUncompahgreWest ElkUpper TaylorCochetopaSan JuansLegendErosion Sensitivity RankingsForest BoundaryGeographic AreasLowModerateHighFigure 10. Erosion Sensitivity Rating from the GMUGNFs WVA. This rating derived from subwatershedcharacterizations of runoff potential, rainfall intensity,stream density, density of response channels, and masswasting potential.(buffers) and others amplify effects (stressors). Forexample, road density may amplify peak flow responseand the potential for flood damage to vulnerableinfrastructure near streams. In contrast, investmentin road improvements such as disconnection of roadsurfaces from streams would tend to buffer effects.Attributes selected by pilots to characterize sensitivityincluded both intrinsic factors and anthropogenic ormanagement-related factors (Table 5). In some cases,pilots termed the “natural” factors as sensitivity, andthe anthropogenic factors as risks, combining the twotypes of indicators to derive a measure of sensitivity.Most pilots included both types of indicators (intrinsicand anthropogenic), though two pilots (Chequamegon-Nicolet and Ouachita NFs) employed only intrinsicFigure 11. Influence of Hydrologic Soil Group (HSG)on groundwater Recharge (2046-2065 minus 1971-1990).HSG was one of two sensitivity attributes applied to thegroundwa ter resource issue in the Chequamegon-NicoletNFs WVA.factors, and the Coconino NF selected only factorsthat related to management activities. A sample output(relative erosion sensitivity of subwatersheds on theGMUG NFs) is shown in Figure 10. Soil hydrologicgroups used to classify watershed sensitivity on theChequamegon-Nicolet NFs are shown in Figure 11.The Chugach NF assessment used many of the samesensitivity attributes as the other pilot Forests, butthe approach differed in that the analysis consisted ofcomparing two watersheds with significant managementactivity (primarily undeveloped watersheds or those inwilderness were not included).Ratings from National Watershed ConditionClassification were used in the sensitivity evaluation bythe Coconino and Gallatin NFs. The Coconino NF wascompleting the Condition Classification at the same timethe WVA was underway, and staff realized the utility thatdata developed would have in both efforts. The CoconinoNF used few intrinsic factors to characterize watershedAquatic Biological• Life Form Presence• Native Species• Exotic and or InvasiveSpecies• (Riparian) VegetationConditionTerrestrial Physical• Density• Road Maintenance• Proximity to Water• Mass Wasting• Soil Productivity• Soil Erosion• Soil ContaminationTerrestrial Biological• Fire Condition Class• Wildfire Effects• Loss of Forest Cover• (Rangeland) VegetationCondition• (Riparian) InvasiveCondition• (Forest) Insectsand DiseaseFigure 12. Watershed Condition Factors from the USFSWatershed Condition Classification. Aquatic-Physicalattributes are not included. Factors shown in red are thoseused as sensitivity indicators in the Coconino NF WVA.
  19. 19. 16 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEsensitivity. Most were derived from the WatershedCondition Classification (Figure 12). The Gallatin NFcharacterization of sensitivity had two components:one included intrinsic watershed attributes, the otherincluded levels of disturbance. The Watershed ConditionClassification ratings of “functioning,” “functioning atrisk,” and “non-functioning” were used to characterizedisturbance. Since National Forests and Grasslands nowhave completed the Watershed Condition Classification,this data would be useful in conducting future WVAs.Pilot Forests that took advantage of existing conditionratings tended to apply them to all resource issues. Severalpilot Forests, however, identified different indicators foreach resource value. While many indicators are importantinfluences on multiple water resources, some are not.For instance, the most important factors affecting peakflows and infrastructure may differ from those that mostinfluence springs and other aquatic habitats.Pilot Forests took several approaches to developingratings of watershed sensitivity. In the simplestapplications (Ouachita and Chequamegon-NicoletNFs), sensitivity indicators (e.g., basin slope, peat landtype) were used to place watersheds into differentcategories. Other pilot Forests produced sensitivityratings based on numerous indicators. When multipleindicators were used, pilot Forests developed methodsof weighting and rating the relative influence of theattributes. For example, when considering influenceson stream habitat, the amount of water withdrawnfrom a subwatershed is likely more important than thecondition of terrestrial vegetation, and would thereforebe given greater weight in calculating a sensitivity score.One approach to weighting sensitivity indicators, fromSubwatershed Attribute Type of Attribute Relative WeightNet Effect Relative toClimate ChangeGeochemistry of parent geology Inherent to watershed 0.25 BufferExtent of glaciation Inherent to watershed 0.75 BufferAspect Inherent to watershed 0.50 AdditiveHydroclimatic regime Inherent to watershed 1.0 AdditiveWeighted precipitation Inherent to watershed 1.0 BufferExtent of surface water features Inherent to watershed 1.0 BufferExtent of large-scale pine beetlemortalityInherent to watershed 0.5 Buffer (short term)Water uses Anthropogenic 1.0 AdditiveDevelopment (primarily roads) Anthropogenic 0.5 AdditiveExtent of beetle salvage Anthropogenic 0.5 Additive (short term)Table 6. Summary of attribute types affecting subwatershed resilience to climate change (White River NF)StressorsSensitivityLow ModerateLowLowLowModerateLow LowHighHighHighHighHighHighLowSensitivity x StressorsRisk Ranking MatrixFigure 13. Scheme used to rate watershed sensitivityon the GMUG NFs. The matrix combines ratings forwater­shed stressors and sensitivity. Ratings of erosionsensitivity (6 elements) and runoff sensitivity (7 elements)were combined to produce the sensitivity rating. Stressorrating was derived by combining ratings of past manage­ment (2 elements), roads (3 elements), vegetation treat­ments, private land, and mining.the White River NF assessment, is shown in Table 6. Inseveral cases, pilot Forests distinguished intrinsic andanthropogenic factors, and used a categorical matrixFigure 14. Bayesian belief network for determining overallphysical condition, from the Sawtooth NF WVA. Contri­butingfactors included habitat access, flow, channel condition, habitatelements, water quality, and watershed conditions.
  20. 20. 17 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEapproach to combining and categorizing sensitivity, intoa single rating. An example of such an approach (fromthe GMUG NFs) is displayed in Figure 13.On the Sawtooth NF, assessment of watershed conditionwas aided by use of Bayesian belief networks (Lee andRieman 1997). The networks were used to evaluaterelative differences in predicted physical baselineoutcomes. The basic structure employs a box-and-arrow diagram depicting hypothesized causes, effects,and ecological interactions (see Figure 14). The systemwas used to weight the relative importance of, andconnections between, a comprehensive list of intrinsicand management attributes, and watershed and habitatelements. As with the other pilot assessments, resultsfrom this process were used to rate watershed conditionas high, moderate, or low.While there was no detailed comparison of theproducts developed from these varied approaches,they had one thing in common: they all made use ofavailable information to the greatest degree possible.By using existing condition and/or sensitivity ratingsor developing them from scratch, each pilot produceduseful ratings of watershed vulnerability. It is veryimportant to determine what intrinsic and management-related attributes are important influences on watershedcondition as they strongly affect the selected waterresources. If available data, analyses, or assessmentsinclude attributes that match those identified in theWVA process or may serve as surrogates, it makes senseto use them.SensitivityHighModerate/HighModerateModerate/LowLowSubwatershedsUmatilla National ForestSensitivityFigure 15. Composite rating of watershed sensitivityfrom the Umatilla NF. Factors used in the rating includegroundwater dependence, watershed restoration invest­mentcategory, road density, near stream road length, road grade,range condition, forest vegetation condition, and aquatichabitat condition. White areas have no NFS ownership.Stream Habitat Sensitivity RatingCoconino National Forest WVAHighMediumLowFigure 16. Watershed Sensitivity for Stream Habitats,Coconino NF. Attributes contributing to this rating werederived from the Forest’s Watershed Condition Classi­fication. Stressors included water diversions, terrestrialvegetation condition, riparian vegetation condition andinvasive species, road proximity to streams, and wildfire.Buffers included holding instream water rights and degreeof implementation of regional groundwater policy.Important Considerations inEvaluating Sensitivity• Determine the intrinsic factors (such as geology,soils, and topography) affecting the hydrologicprocesses of concern—those that can most affectthe resource values.• Determine the management factors (such as roadsand reservoirs) affecting the hydrologic processesof concern.• Determine if management activities will serve asbuffers or stressors.• Consider weighing the relative importance of thebuffers and stressors in influencing condition andresponse.• Evaluate trends or expected trends in stressors,and how management actions and restorationcould affect them.
  21. 21. 18 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEThe sensitivity evaluation typically resulted in mapsshowing relative sensitivities of subwatersheds. Twoexamples of this type of product are displayed. Figure 15shows the sensitivity rating from the Umatilla NF, where(like the GMUG example) a matrix was used to producea combined rating of intrinsic and anthropogenicfactors. A combined sensitivity rating was appliedto a composite of resource values. The Coconino NFdeveloped different sensitivity ratings for each waterresource issue (Figure 16).N1:1,000,000NF BoundaryHUC6WI CountiesLowModerateHighVery HighFigure 10. Relative vulnerability of wetlands to climate change for HUC6watersheds on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.Figure 17. Classification of climate-change risk to wetlandson the Chequamegon-Nicolet NFs. The rating is based onthe proportion of total wetland and acid wetland within theNational Forest boundary in each HUC-6. Total wetland arearanged from 0 percent to 55.8 percent of the area for all HUC-6 watersheds. The HUC-6s with less than 10 percent wererated “low,” those with 10 percent to 30 percent were rated“moderate,” and those with greater than 30 percent were rated“high.” The HUC-6s with less than 5 percent acid wetland areawere rated “low,” those with 5 percent to 15 percent were rated“moderate,” and those with greater than 15 percent were rated“high,” and above that value were "very high". These two riskclasses were combined to form one vulnerability classificationfor each watershed.Composite Aquatic ResourceCoconino National Forest WVAHigh Value, Sensitivity and ExposureHigh Value and Sensitivity, Moderate ExposureHigh Value, Moderate Sensitivity and High ExposureFigure 18. Vulnerability ratings from the Coconino NF.The map displays the subwatersheds with the highestdensity of water resource values (native fishes, amphi­bians,water uses, stream habitat, riparian and spring habitat, andinfrastructure) that also have high or moderate sensitivityand high or moderate exposure.in the ecological resilience of one resourcebase or ecosystem increases the fragility ofthe whole —HRH Charles, The Prince of Wales,addressing UN climate conference COP15,Copenhagen (December 2009)A relative rating of vulnerability of water resources toclimate change was produced by combining informationfrom the evaluation of resource values, exposure, andsensitivity. Pilot Forests used a variety of approachesto complete this step. Primary determinants were thenumber of water resources selected for analysis, andthe way values, sensitivities, and responses had beendescribed. Some pilot Forests classified vulnerabilitybased on a threshold or ecological value (such as theamount of wetland area in each watershed, as shown in theChequamegon-Nicolet example in Figure 17). The mostcommon approach used by pilot Forests was to merge thelocation of values with ratings of watershed sensitivity,and then overlay that summary rating with differencesRecent trends and projected future trends in resourceconditions should also be included. For example,increased water diversion could exacerbate effects ona resource, whereas anticipated road improvementscould improve condition and reduce effects that mightotherwise occur.EVALUATE AND CATEGORIZEVULNERABILITYClimate change is a risk-multiplier… any decline
  22. 22. 19 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGE0 5 10 20 MilesWatershed RankingWater UsesNSEWLegendWater Diversions• A - Active structure with contemporary diversion records• C - Conditional structure• U - Active structures but diversion records are not maintainedWater Uses RankingHighModerateLowWatersheds Level 6Administrative ForestFigure 19. Climate change vulnerability rating for the water uses resource value, White River NF. Red shading depictssubwatersheds with the highest vulnerability. Points of diversion for water uses are shown as black dots.Geographic AreasExposureRankingValue Risk Ranking(weighted Ave)VulnerabilityRanking* Adjusted Vulnerability Ranking**Uncompahgre 6 1 7/12=0.58 3Grand Mesa 5 2 7/12=0.58 4San Juans 4 6 10/12=0.83 6West Elk 3 3 6/12=0.50 2Upper Taylor 2 5 7/12=0.58 5Cochetopa 1 4 5/12=0.41 1* Exposure Ranking + Value Risk Ranking)/12** Upper Taylor adjusted > Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre (area in high risk)Grand Mesa adjusted > Uncompahgre (higher concentration of values)Table 7. Vulnerability ratings from the GMUG NFs. Exposure was ranked for the six landscape units (a composite ofHUC-6 watersheds) on the Forest (1 is the lowest), based on biggest change in annual average maximum temperature,annual average minimum temperature, and percent change in annual aridity index. Value Risk Ranking is the highest riskto values based on weighted average of acres × count of high rankings for each subwatershed.
  23. 23. 20 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEin exposure. The result of combining these elements is aclassification, typically by subwatershed (HUC-6), thatdisplays relative vulnerability of the identified values.All pilot Forests provided a narrative and mapped theirresults. Some pilots combined resource values in theanalysis (see Figure 18), and others displayed resourcevalues separately (Figures 17 and 19). The GMUG NF’ssummary rating of vulnerability was presented in tabularformat (Table 7). The GMUG assessed exposure andrated vulnerability at the watershed scale. The GMUG’sadjusted vulnerability ranking combines the ratings ofvalues, sensitivity, and exposure.Based on its strong partnership with the Rocky MountainResearch Station and its access to considerable habitatcondition data (including stream temperature data), theSawtooth NF conducted the most detailed evaluation.The Sawtooth NF analysis included assessing theeffects of potential changes to stream temperatureand flow on bull trout. Potential temperature effectswere analyzed by summarizing the available streammiles that were within or exceeded 15ºC within eachbull trout patch for 2008, 2040, and 2080 timeframes.Assessment Principle Six: Keep the End Product inMindA plethora of climate change exposure data isnow available. Models are continually refined. Thenumber, types, and detail of climate projectionscan be confusing and overwhelming. Managersand analysts should realize that projections havesubstantial uncertainty and that uncertaintygrows with down-scaling and time.Most pilot Forests structured their analyses suchthat actual values for temperature changes, runoffchanges, etc., were not critical. The focus was,instead, on the ranges and direction of projectedchanges.This approach was appropriate, because theobjective was to produce a relative vulnerabilityrating to inform decisions about priority areas formanagement.Periodically reflecting on the goal—what decisionsneed to be informed—helps put the need for dataand precision in perspective. The necessary depthof analysis is that which will produce these relativeratings.Impacts on both low flow and winter flows were alsoassessed. Change in mean summer flow was evaluatedby looking at the percent change in flow from currentto 2040 and 2080. Changes less than 20% baseflowwere considered low risk, 20% to 40% were consideredmoderate, and greater than 40% were considered highrisk. Winter flow analysis compared how the number ofdays with the highest 5% flows increased from currentto 2040 and 2080. Subwatersheds with less than a 0.5-day increase from current conditions were consideredFigure 20. Predicted bull trout persistence in 2040 for sub­watersheds in the Sawtooth NRA. Red-shaded subwater­sheds are at high extinction risk, yellow-shaded are atmoderate risk, and green are at low risk (subwatershedswith­out bull trout are not colored). Red lines are HUC-4boundaries.at low risk, 0.5- to 2-day increase were considered atmoderate risk, and greater than 2-day increase fromcurrent conditions were considered at high risk. Oncethe individual elements were analyzed, a Bayesian BeliefNetwork was used to rate the impact of the change onbull trout population persistence. The vulnerabilityrating resulting from this process (the extinction riskfor bull trout) is shown in Figure 20.On the Ouachita NF, predicted changes to precipitationwere applied to WEPP (Road) modeling of road sedimentproduction and compared to modeled estimates ofexisting condition. Changes in future conditions werethen compared to existing correlations between aquaticassemblages and sediment production, which includehigh, moderate, and low risk categories. In this case, theassessment illustrates the differences in risk categories
  24. 24. 21 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEthat exist presently, and those projected to result fromclimate change.As with some other aspects of the WVA, the Chugach NFtook a different approach to assessing vulnerability, owingto the fact that they analyzed only the two subwatershedsin their analysis area that are subject to managementactivities. Their objective was to look at those twosubwatersheds and identify specific vulnerabilities andpossible mitigations. The Chugach assessment focusedon potential changes to salmonid habitat. The creeks andtributaries in the two subwatersheds are currently coldenough that the projected increase in water temperatureswould not exceed optimal temperatures. The keyconcern was the unknown response of other organismsSTEP 1Classify WatershedConditionSTEP 2Prioritize Watershedsfor RestorationSTEP 3Develop WatershedAction PlansSTEP 4Implement IntegratedProjectsSTEP 5Track RestorationAccomplishmentsSTEP 5Monitor andVerificationFigure 21. USFS Watershed Condition Framework. Water­shed Vulnerability Assessments contribute directly to Steps1, 2, and 3.(including aquatic invertebrates). Of specific interest waswhether increased water temperatures would alter thelife cycles of prey species currently synchronous withnewly-emerged salmon fry.Pilot Forest staff brought a variety of skills andbackgrounds to their assessments. Some assessmentswere prepared by teams, some primarily by one person.In addition, there was great variation in the typesand amount of available information. Despite thesedifferences, each pilot Forest was able to conduct anassessment and report the results in an effective way.There were many differences in how the individualsteps were approached, and the results reflect thesedifferences. All the vulnerability ratings were derivedby combining values, sensitivity, and exposure. Webelieve that the performance of the pilots in completingmeaningful assessments using the basic process shouldencourage other units desiring to conduct vulnerabilityassessments.Important Considerations inEvaluating Vulnerability• Identify where the location of water resourcevalues overlaps with highest sensitivity andgreatest exposure.• Determine how changes in hydrologic processesaffect water resource values.• Determine the relative vulnerabilities ofwatersheds across the assessment area (forexample: low, moderate, high) to inform prioritiesfor adaptive response to predicted climate change.IDENTIFY ADAPTIVEMANAGEMENT RESPONSES"Nobody made a greater mistake than he whodid nothing because he could only do a little." —Edmund BurkeEach pilot Forest produced an assessment that effectivelydisplays the location of water resources of concern, keyclimate change metrics, and watershed sensitivities ofthe resources to the projected changes. The combinationof these elements yielded relative ratings of watershedvulnerability to climate change. As such, the assessmentsmet the objective of providing managers with informationnecessary to identify priority areas to undertakemanagement actions.Management priorities should focus on maintainingor improving watershed resilience. Resilience is thecapacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation ordisturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly(Holling 1973). By definition, resilient watersheds arebetter able to continue delivery of ecosystem serviceswhen subjected to ecological change, including changesthat might result from a warming climate. A relatedassumption is that watershed resilience is closely tiedto watershed sensitivity. Watershed resilience is aproduct of both inherent sensitivity and anthropogenicinfluences on watershed condition.The results of the WVAs will be useful in developmentof management options and strategies. This includesdiscussion of which vulnerability classes should be
  25. 25. 22 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEhighest priority for management actions. If, for instance,a highly-valued water resource has a very limiteddistribution, management options are limited. If thevalue is more widely dispersed, managers must decideif the most vulnerable areas should be highest priority,or if they should focus their efforts on sustaining thevalues in areas with lower vulnerability. Scale must beconsidered in this discussion. Naturally, for resources(especially species) whose range is greater than theanalysis area, discussion of results with other landmanagers will be necessary.The greatest value of WVA results is in identifyinggeographical areas that are priorities for actionsdesigned to maintain or improve watershed resilience.Several pilot Forests are already using the results tothis end. The recently completed Watershed ConditionClassification (Figure 21) led to the designation ofpriority subwatersheds for improvement actions. Theconnection of the WVA to setting these priorities isclear. One pilot Forest (Coconino NF) applied WVAfindings during this priority-setting process. On manyNational Forests and Grasslands, strategic plans havebeen developed to guide restoration and managementefforts. In these cases, the vulnerability assessmentprocess will be used to reassess existing priorities andto determine if changes are warranted. None of the pilotForests were engaged in Land Management Planningduring the WVA, but results have clear applicationto that effort in helping to identify priority areas formanagement.One pilot Forest (Ouachita NF) incorporated potentialmanagement actions in their sensitivity ratings. Atabular result from the Ouachita NF (Table 8) displaysthe number of subwatersheds in different watershedrisk classes. These ratings were derived from estimatesof current and future sediment production. In thisassessment, future changes to precipitation werepredicted to increase sediment production, withsubsequent impacts on aquatic communities. Shown arethe projected change in watershed condition class causedby climate changes from conditions in 2010 to thoseprojected for 2050 and 2080, and potential modificationsto the response from road management activities.The analysis demonstrates that implementation ofroad management activities could reduce the numberof subwatersheds with high risk ratings. In terms ofsetting priorities for management, subwatersheds whereimplementation of road improvements would reducevulnerability should be considered for high priority.Road improvements were identified as a key action toimprove condition and resilience of watersheds on allthe pilot Forests. In addition to treatments that reduceerosion, road improvements can reduce the deliveryof runoff from road segments to channels, preventdiversion of flow during large events, and restoreaquatic habitat connectivity by providing for passage ofaquatic organisms.As stated previously, watershed sensitivity is determinedby both inherent and management-related factors.Managers have no control over the inherent factors,so to improve resilience, efforts must be directed atanthropogenic influences such as instream flows, roads,rangeland, and vegetation management.In the subwatersheds with the highest vulnerability,any activity that maintains or increases water quantityor quality would ultimately be beneficial. In additionto roadwork, management actions to maintain orimprove resilience could include contesting new waterrights proposals, exploring ways to convert existingwater rights into instream flows, improving conditionsin grazing allotments, restoring natural function inmeadows, and implementing silvicultural treatmentsaimed at moving toward more natural fire regimes.WVA results can also help guide implementationof travel management planning by informingpriority setting for decommissioning roads and roadreconstruction/maintenance. As with the Ouachita NFexample, disconnecting roads from the stream networkis a key objective of such work. Similarly, WVA analysisRiskClimate Change Scenarios2010current2010withroadmgmt 2050 B12050 B1withroadmgmt 2080 B12080 B1withroadmgmt 2050 A1B2050 A1Bwithroadmgmt2080A1B2080A1BwithroadmgmtHigh 88 82 93 85 93 85 105 96 105 96Moderate 46 40 42 43 42 43 44 43 45 43Table 8. Vulnerability ratings (by risk class) of subwatersheds on the Ouachita NF, as influenced by climate changescenarios and application of road management actions (maintenance to standard and closure of user created trails)
  26. 26. 23 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEImportant Considerations inApplying the Assessment Results• Consider whether additional information, analysis,or consultation is needed before setting priorities.• Identify approaches that can enhance resiliencesufficiently to protect resource values.• Consider which effects of climate change mightbe irreversible, and how that can inform prioritysetting.• In places where vulnerabilities are high, canresource values be sustained?• Determine how management actions from WVAcan be integrated into existing programs andpriorities.• Identify management practices that wouldenhance resilience in both the short and long term,and assess the magnitude of treatment that wouldbe required to meet improvement objectives.• Determine if land ownership patterns andadministrative status of NFS lands are conduciveto planning and implementing treatments.• Identify areas where partnerships would improvethe likelihood of success.• Determine if sufficient technical and financialcapacity is available to implement treatments.could also help prioritize aquatic organism passageprojects at road-stream crossings to allow migration byaquatic residents to suitable habitat as streamflow andtemperatures change.Pilot Forests in the Rocky Mountains recognized theutility of WVA results in selecting the subset of high-vulnerability watersheds in high pine-beetle-mortalityareas. These areas are high priority for upgrades ofroad-stream crossings, to protect them from floods anddebris flows. The same watersheds are also priorities forvegetation management to enhance natural reproduction,hydrologic recovery, stream shading, and future largewoody debris recruitment. Both sets of actions wouldimprove watershed condition and resilience.Not all the findings in the vulnerability assessments aregood news. In some cases, projected changes may indicatethat maintaining certain water resources (especiallyaquatic species) may be extremely difficult, even withrestoration or improved management. In such cases,results from the vulnerability assessment may be used torethink local or broad-scale improvement or protectionstrategies to prioritize limited management resources.The rating of vulnerability is based almost entirely onecological considerations. Management activities are akey component in assessing watershed sensitivity, butonly in terms of how they influence water resource valuesthrough hydrologic processes. While such characteristicsare significant, social, economic, and administrativefactors may be more important in determining wheremanagement activities can be effectively undertaken.Such factors include availability of expertise, landownership, the presence of willing partners, LRMPguidance, and opportunities for internal or externalfunding. These factors need to be considered whendetermining where management activities should befocused.Almost all the pilot Forests encountered data gaps, andall encountered uncertainties during their analyses. Suchdata gaps (for instance, distribution of key species anduncertainty on road condition in key watersheds) canbe used to identify inventory or monitoring priorities.Results from these efforts can, in turn, improve theutility of management and restoration plans.It is noteworthy that the specific management activitiesdiscussed above, including road improvements,improving aquatic organism passage, thinning foreststo improve stand resilience, and improving rangecondition, are not new treatments designed to addressclimate change. Rather, they are activities wherewildland resource managers have a long record ofaccomplishment. In land management and statutoryjargon, they are established Best Management Practices.Climate change increases the need for application ofthese practices nearly everywhere.CRITIQUE THE ASSESSMENTTest fast, fail fast, adjust fast. —Tom PetersThe purpose of the WVA pilot was to determine ifworthwhile assessments could be conducted withavailable information and expertise. Within a relativelyshort period of time and despite limited fundingand other pressing business, watershed and aquaticspecialists from the pilot Forests were able to develop awatershed vulnerability approach and complete usefulassessments. Four pilot Forests were able to completethe process within 8 months, and an additional 5 werecompleted within a year.With an eye toward sharing approaches andexperiences, each pilot Forest was asked to critiqueits assessment. These reviews are key in applying theprinciples of adaptive management to the vulnerabilityassessments. In this final section, we discuss how access
  27. 27. 24 | ASSESSING THE VULNERABILITY OF WATERSHEDS TO CLIMATE CHANGEto information affected the assessments and shareadditional lessons learned by the pilots.Data Gaps and UncertaintyAssessing the sensitivity and vulnerability of watershedsto climate change is complex. At each step of theassessment process, pilot Forests encountered data gapsand uncertainty. Uncertainty was prevalent in estimatesof exposure, but each analytical step contained someuncertainty (for instance, the expected responseof hydrologic processes to climate change, and theresponse of aquatic resources to the hydrologic change).Lack of information also contributes to uncertainty; atthe least, it limits the detail of the assessment. Everypilot Forest identified data needs, and each madeassumptions about system responses and interactions.These were captured in the pilot reports as monitoringneeds and included validating assumptions made in theassessment, tracking trends in key resource values, andproviding data to inform key adaptive responses.Acquiring and applying data to improve the analysiswould produce assessments with a higher level ofconfidence, but lack of data should not be used as areason for not conducting an assessment. Some pilotForests were data-rich, in terms of water resource,watershed sensitivity, and exposure information, andsome were data-poor. In spite of these differences,all were able to apply the available information andcomplete a vulnerability assessment. Again, theobjective of producing a relative rating of vulnerability(rather than a more rigorous, quantitative description ofvulnerability) explains the favorable outcome.Other Lessons LearnedThe pilot assessment effort was successful in that itdemonstrated that vulnerability assessments couldbe completed by National Forest staff using existinginformation and tools. Some of the primary reasons forthis success have already been discussed; a few othersare worth noting.While we have discussed how availability of datainfluenced the results, we have not articulated theimportance of the format of the data. National Forestswith digital data progressed much faster than thosethat had to convert paper summaries to digital formats.In some cases, lack of useable data caused elements ofthe assessment (for example, sensitivity factors) to bedeferred. Ideally, necessary data would be gatheredand prepared in anticipation of assessments. A credibleThe Forest Service Climate Change Resource CenterThe Climate Change Resource Center (www.fs.fed.us/ccrc) provides land managers with an online portalto science-based information and tools concerningclimate change and ecosystem management options.The CCRC’s objectives are to:(1) Synthesize scientific literature on ecosystemresponse, adaptation, and mitigation;(2) Highlight recent scientific research that haspractical applications for practitioners on public andprivate lands;(3) Support communication of information througha user-friendly interface and appropriate use ofmultimedia; and(4) Work with scientists to develop educationalresources.expectation that watershed vulnerability assessmentswill occur could help make this happen.Connection of the pilot Forests with ongoing climatechange research and experienced scientists resulted ina more detailed analysis. The partnership between theSawtooth NF and the Rocky Mountain Research Stationyielded the most detailed pilot assessment. Collaborativework in downscaling climate change projections toassess potential changes in stream temperature wasunderway, and was well-utilized by the Sawtooth NF.Connection to sources of exposure data (especially CIG)also aided pilot Forests.As with most endeavors, the resulting products werestrongly influenced by the experience and expertise ofthose participating. Those participants with the greatestlocalized knowledge of forest resources and interactionstended to have the easiest time with the process. Use ofthe pilot participants as trainers or facilitators for futureassessments would streamline and focus those efforts.At the outset of the pilot project, several NationalForests declined to participate, due to other priorities.The reality is that all participating National Forestsmanaged to work on the WVA despite heavy workloads.Agreement to participate in the WVA process reflectedrecognition of the potential value of conductingWVAs. Pilot Forests where line and staff were moreengaged with the assessments made resources (ID teammembers and GIS expertise) available to project leads,generally completed assessments sooner, and producedassessments of greater depth and detail.Recently-available electronic communication tools thatfacilitate information exchange proved extremely useful

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