Stream Temperature Monitoring Network
The Cook Inlet watershed is the most populated and fastest-growing region in Alaska; it is also home to the state’s renowned wild salmon runs, some of which are at great risk due to climate and land-use change. Cook Inletkeeper has documented warm water in local salmon streams since monitoring began in 2002, with summer temperatures routinely exceeding state water quality standards established to protect spawning and migrating fish. Fisheries scientists warn that high stream temperatures make fish increasingly vulnerable to pollution, predation and disease. Yet despite the association between warm water temperatures and reduced salmonid survivorship - there is little consistent, long-term temperature data for salmon streams in Alaska. Without such basic information, it is impossible to gauge the health of Cook Inlet’s salmon habitats and resources, and equally difficult to develop management responses to improve watershed resiliency to climate change.
Cook Inletkeeper developed the Stream Temperature Monitoring Network to build the science-based knowledge needed to identify thermal impacts in Alaska’s coastal salmon habitat. We are 1) collecting consistent, comparable temperature data for Cook Inlet’s salmon streams; 2) increasing our understanding of the rate of rising stream temperatures and areas of maximum exceedances throughout the basin; and 3) providing the knowledge and data needed to prioritize sites for future research, protection and restoration actions. See map on the left for site locations or the map below for a more interactive view.
In 2007, Cook Inletkeeper began laying the groundwork for the Network by creating a standardized water temperature monitoring protocol for Cook Inlet, which is easily transferable to other watersheds in Alaska. Water Temperature Data Logger Protocol for Cook Inlet Salmon Streams includes a detailed description of methods, equipment needed, and instructions on how to deploy data loggers in the field, how to program and download data, and how to perform maintenance and quality assurance measures. Having this information written for a general audience will make it easier for other Cook Inlet stakeholders and decision makers throughout Alaska to implement temperature monitoring to understand and respond to thermal change in local salmon-bearing watersheds.
In 2008, Cook Inletkeeper led a committee of state and federal agencies, NGOs, and community groups to create a monitoring design for Cook Inlet’s streams. By May 2008, Cook Inletkeeper and its Partners began implementing the Stream Temperature Monitoring Network. We have now collected up to 5-years of temperature data in 49 non-glacial salmon streams in the Cook Inlet watershed.
For annual results, see our reports:
In 2013, we completed a synthesis report of the stream temperature data collected from 2008-2012 to establish current water temperature conditions in Cook Inlet salmon streams and stream-specific sensitivity to climate change impacts.
The quantifiable benefits of this work include:
- Providing resource managers with quantified thermal data on key Cook Inlet salmon systems to make better habitat and management decisions;
- Identifying salmon systems and habitat requiring enhanced protection or restoration efforts due to thermal stressors.
For a summary of data collected in a particular stream, click on the site in the map below to view or download a stream-specific fact sheet.
In 2010, Cook Inletkeeper worked with Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP) to get a better understanding of climate predictions on a regional scale. SNAP generated future scenarios of air temperature and precipitation conditions across the Cook Inlet watershed. By understanding these smaller-scale patterns, local communities will be better prepared for changing conditions in the years ahead. For more, visit: Future Climate Conditions in the Cook Inlet Watershed.
In 2012, Cook Inletkeeper developed a Stream Temperature Action Plan to identify the highest priority actions for the next 5-10 years that will lead to greater protection of Alaska’s wild salmon habitat as thermal change continues. By implementing these priority actions in data collection, protection, and research in the Cook Inlet watershed and throughout Alaska, we expect to achieve the following goals:
1. improve our understanding of current thermal regimes in Alaska’s salmon streams;
2. refine data collection for fisheries management and modeling applications;
3. target cold water habitat protection efforts;
4. fill stream network data gaps; and
5. direct relevant fisheries and habitat research.
Cook Inletkeeper acquired airborne thermal infrared imagery for the Anchor and Ninichik Rivers. This exciting technology is an effective method for mapping spatial temperature patterns in streams. To learn more about thermal infrared imagery and how it can be used to identify important cold-water habitats important for salmon, visit Cold Water Refugia.