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Annual Changes in Seasonal River Water Temperatures in the Eastern and Western United States

Tyler Wagner, Stephen R. Midway, Joanna B. Whittier, Jefferson T. DeWeber, Craig P. Paukert
Water 2017 v.9 no.2 pp. -
Bayesian theory, analytical methods, autumn, climate change, decision making, fish communities, habitats, linear models, prediction, regression analysis, river water, rivers, seasonal variation, uncertainty, water temperature, winter, Eastern United States, Western United States
Changes in river water temperatures are anticipated to have direct effects on thermal habitat and fish population vital rates, and therefore, understanding temporal trends in water temperatures may be necessary for predicting changes in thermal habitat and how species might respond to such changes. However, many investigations into trends in water temperatures use regression methods that assume long-term monotonic changes in temperature, when in fact changes are likely to be nonmonotonic. Therefore, our objective was to highlight the need and provide an example of an analytical method to better quantify the short-term, nonmonotonic temporal changes in thermal habitat that are likely necessary to determine the effects of changing thermal conditions on fish populations and communities. To achieve this objective, this study uses Bayesian dynamic linear models (DLMs) to examine seasonal trends in river water temperatures from sites located in the eastern and western United States, regions that have dramatically different riverine habitats and fish communities. We estimated the annual rate of change in water temperature and found little evidence of seasonal changes in water temperatures in the eastern U.S. We found more evidence of warming for river sites located in the western U.S., particularly during the fall and winter seasons. Use of DLMs provided a more detailed view of temporal dynamics in river thermal habitat compared to more traditional methods by quantifying year-to-year changes and associated uncertainty, providing managers with the information needed to adapt decision making to short-term changes in habitat conditions that may be necessary for conserving aquatic resources in the face of a changing climate.