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Research findings inform decision-support tools to help brook trout stay cool in the face of warming climate

Which headwater streams can continue to meet the needs of Eastern brook trout in the context of climate change? A new model will help decision makers identify prime habitat for cold-water dependent species based on predictions about climate change.

After more than a century of population decline resulting from habitat loss, and competition from invasive species, Eastern brook trout are starting to feel the heat from climate change as well.

Findings from a 15-year study led by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, US Geological Survey, USDA Forest Service, and the University of Oxford in England, looking at factors affecting brook trout population levels indicate that high summer air temperatures have a large influence on the specific habitat conditions these fish need to survive. That means in order to protect brook trout into the future, scientists need to know which cold-water streams will remain cold over the long term.

Fortunately the results from this study, published in the latest issue of Global Change Biology, can help them do just that. The data are being used to create tools that can help resource managers and conservation organizations identify and prioritize habitat that can support brook trout and other cold-water species in the face of climate change.

Funded in part by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Spatial Hydro-Ecological Decision System (SHEDS) offers a suite of tools designed to help resource managers make decisions related to protecting freshwater aquatic habitat, including a stream temperature database, a visualization for identifying priority catchments, and an interactive GIS map featuring brook trout data.

SHEDS is just one example of efforts the North Atlantic LCC is supporting to understand the links between species, systems, and climate change in order to respond to threats more effectively.  

Read a feature about the project on the Conserving the Nature of the Northeast, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region blog.

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