SERDP 2020 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency

Temperature and precipitation patterns, altered by climate change, impact the timing, frequency, and magnitude of flood and drought events in the western United States. These changes stress the environment. Direct impacts include changes in populations of aquatic organisms (fish, aquatic invertebrates, riparian vegetation); indirectly stream-dependent birds, reptiles, and mammals, including federally threatened and endangered species and other at-risk species are impacted.

Dr. David Lytle from Oregon State University led his SERDP-funded team to examine the question of how climate change alters stream flow and how these changes influence sensitive aquatic and riparian organisms. The effort examined the critical link between landscape-level climate predictions and population response. Examining this link enables researchers and managers to anticipate climate-driven changes to the distribution of aquatic and riparian organisms. In addition, the project developed web-based tools for managers that enable them to explore the consequences of proposed management actions.

Specific, important outputs from this project include the development of a novel flow-population model for riparian vegetation, fish, and aquatic invertebrates; a parameterized model of vital population rates using long-term datasets from military and other lands; and the implementation models to forecast the changing climate impact to aquatic populations across a suite of western U.S. military installations. Additional research results determined that network connectivity declines with increasing flow alteration, that keystone status is affected by changes to the natural flow regime and confirmed that flooding is fundamental to the maintenance of complex ecological networks in many areas of the Western United States.

For this significant work, Dr. Lytle and his team received the 2020 SERDP Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency for their project titled, Flow-Population Models for Tracking Non-Stationary Changes in Riparian and Aquatic Ecosystems.

Project Team:

  • Dr. David Lytle – Oregon State University
  • Dr. Julian D. Olden – University of Washington