Western North American Naturalist
Brigham Young University
Changes in global climate may exacerbate other anthropogenic stressors, accelerating the decline in distribution and abundance of rare species throughout the world. We examined the potential effects of a warming climate on the greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias), a resident salmonid that inhabits headwater streams of the central Rocky Mountains. Greenbacks are outcompeted at lower elevations by nonnative species of trout and currently are restricted to upper-elevation habitats where barriers to upstream migration by nonnatives are or have been established. We used likelihood-based techniques and information theoretics to select models predicting stream temperature changes for 10 streams where greenback cutthroat trout have been translocated. These models showed high variability among responses by different streams, indicating the usefulness of a stream-specific approach. We used these models to project changes in stream temperatures based on 2°C and 4°C warming of average air temperatures. In these warming scenarios, spawning is predicted to begin from 2 to 3.3 weeks earlier than would be expected under baseline conditions. Of the 10 streams used in this assessment, 5 currently have less than a 50% chance of translocation success. Warming increased the probability of translocation success in these 5 streams by 11.2% and 21.8% in the 2 scenarios, respectively. Assuming barriers to upstream migration by nonnative competitors maintain their integrity, we conclude that an overall habitat improvement results because greenbacks have been restricted through competition with nonnatives to suboptimal habitats, which are generally too cold to be highly productive.