Title

Native Trout Conservation and Watershed Restoration: A response to Climate Change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Changes in temperature are occurring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are expected to accelerate in the coming century. Over the past two decades scientists have observed an increasingly diminished snowpack, rivers peaking earlier in the spring, more extreme and frequent wildfires, and shifts in vegetation as the climate has warmed. Perhaps most vulnerable to this warming trend are the region’s aquatic habitats and species.

In 2011, I helped publish a report focused on how Greater Yellowstone’s native trout – Yellowstone, westslope, Bonneville and Colorado River cutthroat – are threatened by climate change, and more importantly, what can be done.

The premise is that degraded, fragmented and highly stressed watersheds and native trout populations are more vulnerable to the effects of rapid climate change. For example, an overgrazed stream with little riparian vegetation to provide shade and wide, shallow sections will warm more quickly as temperatures increase, possibly pushing resident trout over their thermal threshold. Conversely, healthy, connected habitats and robust, well-distributed trout populations are much more likely to persist. Thus, efforts to restore degraded watersheds in conjunction with native trout conservation can be a promising adaptation strategy. (Adaptation refers to actions designed to reduce the risk or vulnerability of natural systems to the impacts of climate change.)

This report also describes close to 40 potential projects that if completed would lower water temperatures, enhance water quality and quantity, improve riparian habitat conditions and expand cutthroat trout populations. While the challenge is daunting, there are already many agencies, landowners, watershed groups and conservation organizations in the trenches doing meaningful work. Scaling up and accelerating collective efforts can make a big difference for Yellowstone’s cherished rivers and native trout.

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Apr 12th, 3:00 PM Apr 12th, 4:00 PM

Native Trout Conservation and Watershed Restoration: A response to Climate Change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

UC Ballroom

Changes in temperature are occurring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and are expected to accelerate in the coming century. Over the past two decades scientists have observed an increasingly diminished snowpack, rivers peaking earlier in the spring, more extreme and frequent wildfires, and shifts in vegetation as the climate has warmed. Perhaps most vulnerable to this warming trend are the region’s aquatic habitats and species.

In 2011, I helped publish a report focused on how Greater Yellowstone’s native trout – Yellowstone, westslope, Bonneville and Colorado River cutthroat – are threatened by climate change, and more importantly, what can be done.

The premise is that degraded, fragmented and highly stressed watersheds and native trout populations are more vulnerable to the effects of rapid climate change. For example, an overgrazed stream with little riparian vegetation to provide shade and wide, shallow sections will warm more quickly as temperatures increase, possibly pushing resident trout over their thermal threshold. Conversely, healthy, connected habitats and robust, well-distributed trout populations are much more likely to persist. Thus, efforts to restore degraded watersheds in conjunction with native trout conservation can be a promising adaptation strategy. (Adaptation refers to actions designed to reduce the risk or vulnerability of natural systems to the impacts of climate change.)

This report also describes close to 40 potential projects that if completed would lower water temperatures, enhance water quality and quantity, improve riparian habitat conditions and expand cutthroat trout populations. While the challenge is daunting, there are already many agencies, landowners, watershed groups and conservation organizations in the trenches doing meaningful work. Scaling up and accelerating collective efforts can make a big difference for Yellowstone’s cherished rivers and native trout.