Contribution of warm habitat to cold-water fisheries

Nick Hahlbeck, William R. Tinniswood, Matthew R. Sloat, Jordan D. Ortega, Matthew A. Wyatt, Mark E. Hereford, Ben S. Ramirez, David A. Crook, Kara J. Anlauf-Dunn, Jonathan B. Armstrong

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A central tenet of landscape ecology is that mobile species depend on complementary habitats, which are insufficient in isolation, but combine to support animals through the full annual cycle. However, incorporating the dynamic needs of mobile species into conservation strategies remains a challenge, particularly in the context of climate adaptation planning. For cold-water fishes, it is widely assumed that maximum temperatures are limiting and that summer data alone can predict refugia and population persistence. We tested these assumptions in populations of redband rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii) in an arid basin, where the dominance of hot, hyperproductive water in summer emulates threats of climate change predicted for cold-water fish in other basins. We used telemetry to reveal seasonal patterns of movement and habitat use. Then, we compared contributions of hot and cool water to growth with empirical indicators of diet and condition (gut contents, weight–length ratios, electric phase angle, and stable isotope signatures) and a bioenergetics model. During summer, trout occurred only in cool tributaries or springs (<20 °C) and avoided Upper Klamath Lake (>25 °C). During spring and fall, ≥65% of trout migrated to the lake (5–50 km) to forage. Spring and fall growth (mean [SD] 0.58% per day [0.80%] and 0.34 per day [0.55%], respectively) compensated for a net loss of energy in cool summer refuges (–0.56% per day [0.55%]). In winter, ≥90% of trout returned to tributaries (25–150 km) to spawn. Thus, although perennially cool tributaries supported thermal refuge and spawning, foraging opportunities in the seasonally hot lake ultimately fueled these behaviors. Current approaches to climate adaptation would prioritize the tributaries for conservation but would devalue critical foraging habitat because the lake is unsuitable and unoccupied during summer. Our results empirically demonstrate that warm water can fuel cold-water fisheries and challenge the common practice of identifying refugia based only on summer conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere13857
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalConservation Biology
    Issue number3
    Early online dateNov 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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