Consequences of Climate Change for Mountain Lakes and Native Cutthroat Trout

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A native cutthroat trout. Photo by James Roberts, USGS.

The goal of this research is to address the potential impacts of climate change on mountain lake systems and the influence these changes may have on native cutthroat trout and their conservation. We have developed a bayesian network model as a decision support system to manage cutthroat trout under a changing climate. Through this we have predicted population persistence of two imperiled cutthroat sub-species (Colorado River and Rio Grande cutthroat trout) and we are in the process of expanding this tool to include other trout that are native to the inland western US. These models draw on current habitat conditions and downscaled Global Climate Models to predict persistence and will aid in the allocation of conservation resources related to cutthroat trout.  

We are also tracking the movement of cutthroat trout - a knowledge gap in mountain systems - within lake-stream networks, and collecting abiotic data (temperature, dissolved oxygen, etc.) that may cue these movements. Predictive models of stream/lake abiotic conditions and climate projections will be used to assess the potential impact of a changing climate on these movement patterns.