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Flow regime, temperature and biotic interactions determine winners and losers among trout species under climate change
Wenger, S.J., D.J. Isaak, C.H. Luce, H.M. Neville, K.D. Fausch, J.B. Dunham, D.C. Dauwalter, M.K. Young, M.M. Elsner, B.E. Rieman, A.F. Hamlet, and J.E. Williams. 2011. Flow regime, temperature and biotic interactions determine winners and losers among trout species under climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (34): 14175-14180, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103097108.
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Broad-scale studies of climate change effects on freshwater species have focused mainly on temperature, ignoring critical drivers such as flow regime and biotic interactions. We use downscaled outputs from general circulation models coupled with a hydrologic model to forecast the effects of altered flows and increased temperatures on four interacting species of trout across the interior western United States (1.01 million km2), based on empirical statistical models built from fish surveys at 9,890 sites.
Projections under the 2080s A1B emissions scenario forecast a mean 47% decline in total suitable habitat for all trout, a group of fishes of major socioeconomic and ecological significance. We project that native cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii, already excluded from much of its potential range by nonnative species, will lose a further 58% of habitat due to an increase in temperatures beyond the species' physiological optima and continued negative biotic interactions. Habitat for nonnative brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis and brown trout Salmo trutta is predicted to decline by 77% and 48%, respectively, driven by increases in temperature and winter flood frequency caused by warmer, rainier winters. Habitat for rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, is projected to decline the least (35%) because negative temperature effects are partly offset by flow regime shifts that benefit the species.
These results illustrate how drivers other than temperature influence species response to climate change. Despite some uncertainty, large declines in trout habitat are likely, but our findings point to opportunities for strategic targeting of mitigation efforts to appropriate stressors and locations.