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Anticipating Future Environments: Climate Change, Adaptive Restoration, and the Columbia River Basin

Shana Lee Hirsch
Research Scientist, UW

Date

Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 4:30am

Across the Columbia River Basin, rivers and streams are warmer than ever before. Most watersheds are experiencing a shift from high-elevation precipitation in the form of snow to rain, which is raising water temperatures to levels dangerous to salmon. Environmental change is becoming increasingly apparent, and ecological restorationists working to restore endangered salmon habitat in the basin are being forced to adapt their scientific work and management practices in order to meet changing conditions. While the scientific effort to understand, manage, and restore habitats has never been straightforward, the uncertainty introduced by climate change is challenging restorationists to rethink common management goals and scientific concepts such as ecological baselines located in the past. Restorationists are reimagining old paradigms, and those working in the field often make decisions on a day-to-day-basis, experimenting with and altering the river landscape as they try to restore salmon habitat, manage for future climatic change, and deal with high levels of scientific uncertainty. In this talk, I will consider how imaginaries of the environment interact with science and policy, with material consequences for the future of the river. 

 

Press Release for Anticipating Future Environments: Climate Change, Adaptive Restoration, and the Columbia River Basin (by Shana Lee Hirsch, 2020)

Drought. Wildfire. Extreme flooding. How does climate change affect the daily work of scientists? Ecological restoration is often premised on the idea of returning a region to an earlier, healthier state. Yet the effects of climate change undercut that premise and challenge the ways scientists can work, destabilizing the idea of “normalcy” and revealing the politics that shape what scientists can do. How can the practice of ecological restoration shift to anticipate an increasingly dynamic future? And how does a scientific field itself adapt to climate change?

Restoration efforts in the Columbia River Basin—a vast and diverse landscape experiencing warming waters, less snowpack, and greater fluctuations in precipitation—may offer answers to some of these questions. Shana Hirsch tells the story of restoration science in the basin, surveying its past and detailing the work of today’s salmon habitat restoration efforts. Her analysis offers critical insight into scientific practices, emerging approaches and ways of thinking, the incorporation of future climate change scenarios into planning, and the ultimate transformation—or adaptation—of the science of ecological restoration. For scientists and environmental managers around the globe, Anticipating Future Environments will shed light on how to more effectively cope with climate change.

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS
uwapress.uw.edu 

Photo of Shana Lee Hirsch

Shana Lee Hirsch is a research scientist in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington.

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