Coldwater streams may provide refuge against changing climate

103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America: 
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

July 24, 2018
For Immediate Release


Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, gro.asenull@setnegz

New Orleans on-site press room: 504-670-6402


Coldwater stream habitats are vulnerable to effects of climate change, particularly to changes in precipitation and air temperatures that alter their hydrology. Some of these streams are expected to diminish in size, permanently transition to warmer habitats, or possibly go dry. However, streams in deep canyons, poleward-facing slopes, thick canopy cover, groundwater-fed areas, and with fewer anthropogenic impacts are more likely to resist these changing conditions. Such areas may act as coldwater refugia — areas buffered from climate change that enable persistence of the ecosystem and its resources – and may provide long-term habitat to ecologically and economically important species.

These coldwater researchers study streams to evaluate them for traits that buffer against the effects of climate change, acting as climate refugia for important species and resources. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Quiñones.

The efficacy of conservation strategies to protect coldwater streams and the species that rely on them will depend upon understanding the potential persistence of these habitats. Such understanding may help with management practices including prioritization of dam removal, instream flow protection, vegetation management, and trout stocking. The first step is to identify locations that are relatively buffered from physical processes such as warming temperatures, hydrologic changes, or extreme disturbances like fire, drought, pests, and pathogens.

A study by Rebecca M. Quiñones, a fisheries biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and partners builds on existing models of watershed characteristics to map Massachusetts streams under different climate scenarios and time scales. Quiñones used the presence of coldwater species – for example, Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Longnose Sucker (Catostomus catostomus) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) — to identify stream reaches most likely to be climate refugia. The goal of the study is to determine the probability of species occupancy before and after potential management actions and the influence of urban development, water demand, and other stressors on stream characteristics. She will present her findings at the 2018 ESA Annual Meeting in August.

Quiñones’s presentation is part of a session about the role of climate change refugia in adapting our management of ecosystems as a response to changing environmental conditions. This session consists of 10 presentations, including the selections below:

OOS 35-10 – Mapping coldwater refugia as a first step towards spatially-explicit aquatic conservation in Massachusetts

  • Thursday, August 9, 2018: 4:40 PM
  • 343, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
  • Rebecca M. Quiñones, Department of Fish and Game, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Presentation abstract
  • Contact:


2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana
Extreme events, ecosystem resilience and human well-being
5–10 August 2018

Ecologists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on New Orleans, Louisiana this August for the 103rd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Up to 4,000 attendees are expected to gather for thousands of scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on August 5 – 10, 2018.

The Opening Plenary features Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University, who will speak about, “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta.” The event is free and open to the general public and will be live-streamed – watch it here on Sunday, August 5 at 5:00 PM Central Time.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Zoe Gentes directly at gro.asenull@setnegz. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at