As Streams Warm Up, Where Will Restoration Be the Most Effective for the Most Species?

Bull Trout climate refuge map. Credit: Dan Isaak, USFS

Nongame aquatic species such as sculpins, whitefishes, tadpoles, and turtles are some of the most imperiled yet least studied organisms. I am using future temperature projections for Montana streams to determine where temperatures will be suitable for these species to survive. These areas are known as “refugia.” Additional information, such as land ownership and barrier locations, will help prioritize which areas and species should be the focus of conservation & restoration actions. Much of this work is based on the important Climate Shield work by Dan Isaak of the U.S. Forest Service and others.

Can Torrent Sculpin Take the Heat?

Torrent Sculpin, Lake Creek near Troy, MT

Climate change is causing streams across the West to warm up, forcing coldwater species to move higher, into colder waters, or blink out. Mike Lemoine and Lisa Eby at the University of Montana have documented range contractions of Slimy Sculpin (Uranidea cognata) due to rising temperatures in the Bitterroot drainage. The Kootenai River basin, in the extreme northwest of Montana, is the only part of the state where Torrent Sculpin (Uranidea rhotheus) can be found. However, little is known about what temperatures Torrent Sculpin need to survive. Mike Young, at the U.S.F.S. National Fish & Wildlife Genomics Center, is developing an eDNA assay for Torrent Sculpin so that I can quickly determine the thermal extent where this cryptic species is found.

Project Partners & Funders:
National Science Foundation; U.S. Forest Service; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; Utah State University.