Changing climatic conditions represent a large and increasing threat to fisheries conservation and management. Scientists in the Aquatic Sciences Branch (ASB) have several studies aimed at understanding linkages between aquatic systems and climate conditions. The ultimate goal of these studies is to provide data and tools that will be used for climate-smart conservation and management planning. For example, ASB scientists are developing Bayesian network (BN) models as decision support tools, to better inform Cutthroat Trout management under changing climate conditions. These BNs help predict population persistence of two imperiled Cutthroat Trout sub-species (Colorado River and Rio Grande cutthroat trout). These models draw on current habitat conditions and regionally downscaled global climate models to predict population persistence and will aid in the allocation of conservation resources related to Cutthroat Trout (Roberts).
|A cutthroat trout in its native habitat. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Monroe.
Other ASB fisheries studies investigate the effects of warming climates on Cutthroat Trout movements and the response of trout populations to climate change over the last half-century. Scientists are tracking the movements of Cutthroat Trout (a knowledge gap in mountain systems) within lake-stream networks and collecting environmental data (e.g., temperature and dissolved oxygen) that may cue these movements (Roberts). Predictive models of stream and lake environmental conditions and climate projections will evaluate the potential impact of a changing climate on these behaviors. Another study focuses on using existing population data to form a comprehensive nation-wide retrospective analysis on the influence of changing climatic conditions on inland trout. Specifically, ASB scientists will use models linking population patterns and processes to environmental conditions in order to determine if populations are already responding to climate change (Roberts). Finally, ASB scientists are creating predictive models of water temperature for streams and lakes in the southern Rocky Mountains by using existing databases of stream and lake temperature regimes. Regionally downscaled climate model predictions help scientists determine potential future thermal conditions for these habitats and create climate-smart conservation strategies (Roberts).
All of these fisheries projects will have significant impacts on future management and conservation strategies for our water systems and their inhabitants. Aquatic scientists at FORT are working diligently to ensure that their research addresses basic ecological questions while also providing data and tools imperative to developing effective conservation and management plans for fishery resources in western North America.
To read more about fisheries studies, please click on the links in the gray box at the right.