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Comparing stream-specific to generalized temperature models to guide salmonid management in a changing climate

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Abstract

Global climate change is predicted to increase air and stream temperatures and alter thermal habitat suitability for growth and survival of coldwater fishes, including brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis), brown trout (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). In a changing climate, accurate stream temperature modeling is increasingly important for sustainable salmonid management throughout the world. However, finite resource availability (e.g. funding, personnel) drives a tradeoff between thermal model accuracy and efficiency (i.e. cost-effective applicability at management-relevant spatial extents). Using different projected climate change scenarios, we compared the accuracy and efficiency of stream-specific and generalized (i.e. region-specific) temperature models for coldwater salmonids within and outside the State of Michigan, USA, a region with long-term stream temperature data and productive coldwater fisheries. Projected stream temperature warming between 2016 and 2056 ranged from 0.1 to 3.8 °C in groundwater-dominated streams and 0.2–6.8 °C in surface-runoff dominated systems in the State of Michigan. Despite their generally lower accuracy in predicting exact stream temperatures, generalized models accurately projected salmonid thermal habitat suitability in 82% of groundwater-dominated streams, including those with brook charr (80% accuracy), brown trout (89% accuracy), and rainbow trout (75% accuracy). In contrast, generalized models predicted thermal habitat suitability in runoff-dominated streams with much lower accuracy (54%). These results suggest that, amidst climate change and constraints in resource availability, generalized models are appropriate to forecast thermal conditions in groundwater-dominated streams within and outside Michigan and inform regional-level salmonid management strategies that are practical for coldwater fisheries managers, policy makers, and the public. We recommend fisheries professionals reserve resource-intensive stream-specific models for runoff-dominated systems containing high-priority fisheries resources (e.g. trophy individuals, endangered species) that will be directly impacted by projected stream warming.

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Carlson, A. K., Taylor, W. W., Hartikainen, K. M., Infante, D. M., Beard, T. D., & Lynch, A. J. (2017). Comparing stream-specific to generalized temperature models to guide salmonid management in a changing climate. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 27(2), 443–462. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-017-9467-0

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