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New Research Examines Climate Change Effects on Trout Spawning Location in the Jackson Hole Area

Posted On
Sep 29, 2015
Yellowstone Fly Fishing


The Jackson Hole News and Guide just did a brief write up on new research published by the U.S. Forest Service in the journal Global Biology Change. The topic? The effects of climate change on trout spawning/survival locations in the greater Jackson Hole area. Although the research was regionally specific, the implications can very likely be generalized across the Rocky Mountains. Below are some of the key findings and related extrapolations.

  • As river and stream temperatures increase due to climate change, suitable trout habitat will become more concentrated and restricted to upper headwaters. Some of these areas are too cold at the moment, but will eventually contain the water temperatures ideal for trout habitat.
  • Cutthroat trout can spawn and thrive in water temperatures that are too low for competing rainbow and brown trout. This means that the upper reaches of cold headwaters (referred to as the cold-water climate shield) can and will provide sanctuaries for cutties in which hybridization and food/habitat competition with other trout will be eliminated and/or minimized.
    • The one exception to this is the brook trout, which can also thrive in very cold waters.
  • Some of the bad news is that much of the current sections of streams and rivers that are conducive to trout and trout spawning will be too warm in 25 to 65 years from now.

These findings and implications are quite interesting for the entire Rocky Mountain region. Generally speaking, ideal trout habitat will move further and further upstream as the climate continues to warm. The cutthroat trout isolation that could result could be a temporary boon for cutties. Even so, the overall message here is concerning (e.g., many of the rivers and streams that we so dearly love may be too warm for trout in the future).

To check out the Jackson Hole News and Guide article, click here. For more information on the Climate Shield research, click here.

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