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Projected impacts of climate change on stream salmonids with implications for resilience-based management
Journal or Book Title: Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Year Published: 2017
The sustainability of freshwater fisheries is increasingly affected by climate warming, habitat alteration, invasive species and other drivers of global change. The State of Michigan, USA, contains ecologically, socioeconomically valuable coldwater stream salmonid fisheries that are highly susceptible to these ecological alterations. Thus, there is a need for future management approaches that promote resilient stream ecosystems that absorb change amidst disturbances. Fisheries professionals in Michigan are responding to this need by designing a comprehensive management plan for stream brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) populations. To assist in developing such a plan, we used stream-specific regression models to forecast thermal habitat suitability in streams throughout Michigan from 2006 to 2056 under different predicted climate change scenarios. As baseflow index (i.e., relative groundwater input) increased, stream thermal sensitivity (i.e., relative susceptibility to temperature change) decreased. Thus, the magnitude of temperature warming and frequency of thermal habitat degradation were lowest in streams with the highest baseflow indices. Thermal habitats were most suitable in rainbow trout streams as this species has a wider temperature range for growth (12.0–22.5 °C) compared to brook charr (11.0–20.5 °C) and brown trout (12.0–20.0 °C). Our study promotes resilience-based salmonid management by providing a methodology for stream temperature and thermal habitat suitability prediction. Fisheries professionals can use this approach to protect coldwater habitats and drivers of stream cooling and ultimately conserve resilient salmonid populations amidst global change.