Conserving wetlands under a changing climate in the Columbia Plateau
Shaped by geologic events and agricultural practices, the wetlands in the arid Columbia Plateau, which stretches from interior British Columbia to eastern Washington and Oregon, are highly beneficial to people and working lands. These “wetland ecosystems” store water, recharge groundwater, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and much more.
Wetlands are considered to be especially sensitive to climate change because their dynamic hydrology is influenced by precipitation and evaporation. A small change in precipitation or evaporation—which is dependent on temperature, among other factors—can alter wetland hydrology, which in turn impacts the ecology and function of the system.
To help fill a critical information gap for managers on how climate impacts wetlands, the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Northwest Climate Science Center supported a project lead by University of Washington researchers.
Through a series of workshops, the research team worked with other researchers, managers and regulators from federal and state agencies, tribes, universities, and non-profit organizations, to refine components of the project, and ultimately, to develop recommendations for wetland conservation using map and data products.
The project produced wall-to-wall maps (and foundation data) of wetlands across the Columbia Plateau, coupled with detailed 30-year hydrographs of historical fluctuations in water extent for each wetland, and similar 30-year hydrographs for fluctuations expected under future climate, all of which managers can use for their respective jurisdictions and responsibilities.