A GIS Analysis of Climate Change and Snowpack on Columbia Basin Tribal Lands

Ecological Restoration, 27(3):256-257 (2009)

David Graves

“”A robust snowpack is the most important factor for the delivery of cool and consistent stream flows throughout the year in the Pacific Northwest, but it is at risk of depletion in an era of climate change. Most of the region’s precipitation falls during the cool months between autumn and spring, historically as snow in upland areas. There it exists as a frozen reservoir that, as it melts, sustains flows during the dry months of late spring and summer. With increasing air temperatures anticipated from 21st century climate change, many of these upland areas in the Pacific Northwest may receive more rain and less snow, leading to increasing flooding during the winter months and lower stream flows during the summer months, when water is needed most for competing economic and ecological uses (Mote et al. 2003, ISAB 2007). The Indian tribes of the Columbia River Basin are interested in how these conditions may change because seasonal stream flows are critically important to salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, O. keta, O. kisutch, and O. nerka) and steelhead (O. mykiss), and they are also important to other traditional food resources of the tribes such as lamprey (Lampetra tridentata), sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), deer (Odocoileus spp.) and other big game, biscuit root (Lomatium cous) and other roots, and berries.