DOINews: New Research Links Climate Change to Declines in Cutthroat Trout Populations

Last edited 4/26/2016

Muhlfeld_et_al_NCC_cover1 200x200In a new study, researchers have found evidence of a linkage between climate change and the genetic decline of some species. Scientists studied populations of native westslope cutthroat trout and non-native rainbow trout in the Flathead River system in Montana and British Columbia, Canada. Findings from the research show that rainbow trout spawning and population numbers have increased due, at least in part, to climate-induced changes in the Flathead basin. This increase has led to wide expansion of hybridization with westslope cutthroat trout, causing a genetic decline in the cutthroat trout populations.

Authors of the new publication are Clint Muhlfeld, U.S. Geological Survey; Ryan Kovach, University of Montana; Leslie Jones, U.S. Geological Survey; Robert Al-Chokhachy, U.S. Geological Survey; Matthew Boyer, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Robb Leary, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Winsor Lowe, University of Montana; Gordon Luikart, University of Montana; and Fred Allendorf, University of Montana.

This study was funded in part by the Northwest Climate Science Center, as part of the project "Predicting Climate Change Impacts on River Ecosystems and Salmonids across the Pacific Northwest: Combining Vulnerability Modeling, Landscape Genomics, and Economic Evaluations for Conservation".

Visit the USGS Newsroom for a longer description of the study findings.

Also check out the feature on NPR about this research.

Image Source: Jonny Armstrong, USGS