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Primer for identifying cold-water refuges to protect and restore thermal diversity in riverine landscapes

March 28, 2012

In 2003, EPA issued Region 10 guidance for Pacific Northwest state and tribal temperature water quality standards. This document was the culmination of a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary effort to develop a temperature standard for the protection of salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and redband and Lahontan cutthroat trout (collectively termed coldwater salmonids). Since its release, the Oregon and Washington have adopted the temperature standard for their waters designated for protection of coldwater salmonids. One of the unique aspects of the temperature standard, which strived to integrate the physical nature of rivers and streams and the biological requirements of coldwater salmonids, is the requirement to protect and restore cold-water refuges. This requirement is incorporated into the temperature criterion for the protection of migration corridors in the Willamette, Columbia, and Snake rivers. The intent of this provision is the recognition that some coldwater salmonids migrate through waters during thermally stressful months of summer and most likely are able to do so by using features in the rivers that provide cold water spatially or temporally. The challenge is to ensure that these features are identified, protected, and restored in order for these waters to meet the temperature standard. This primer is intended to assist Region 10 states, tribes, and local watershed groups in meeting this goal and thereby further the protection and restoration of coldwater salmonids. It provides an up-to-date summary with easily referenced information and illustrations on the scientific advances and management applications of research on cold-water refuges and can be used as a "roadmap" for identifying cold-water refuges and learning more about processes that create thermal diversity in riverine landscapes. The specific objectives are to

1. define cold-water refuge in scientific and management contexts.

2. outline an approach for identifying cold-water refuges to address water quality standards.

3. classify and characterize the types and physical processes that create cold-water refuges.

4. review methods and tools for identifying cold-water refuges in small streams to large rivers.

5. describe ecological perspectives and on-the-ground approaches for protecting and restoring thermal diversity in rivers.

Publication Year 2012
Title Primer for identifying cold-water refuges to protect and restore thermal diversity in riverine landscapes
Authors Christian E. Torgersen, Joseph L. Ebersole, D.M. Keenan
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Index ID 70037945
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center