Stream monitoring will help biologists understand the impacts of climate change
(Phoenix)—Biologists from Trout Unlimited, the University of Arizona and state and federal agencies this week announced expanded “citizen science” stream monitoring projects that will help them understand the impacts of climate change on Southwest native trout and aid recovery of these rare species.
The efforts will be detailed at this week’s annual Southwest Native and Wild Trout Conference in Phoenix, which brings together leading biologists and conservationists from more than 35 agencies and organizations involved in protecting and restoring native trout habitat in New Mexico and Arizona.
In the past decade, the Southwest’s three native trout—Gila, Apache, and Rio Grande cutthroat—have suffered devastating impacts from wildfires, climate change, nonnative species and other pressures.
“Southwest native trout have survived for thousands of years in rugged backcountry—but today, they’re facing a triple threat of climate change, wildfires and invading non-native species. We need to step up our efforts to protect these rare, beautiful species—time might be running out,” said Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited.
Williams noted that trout need cool water and consistent flows. And as the climate warms, those conditions could be harder to find in the Southwest. Climate change and drought also have contributed to larger, more intense mega-fires, which also disrupt trout habitat and stream flows.
To better understand changing conditions, TU, in collaboration with the University of Arizona in Tucson, will enlist citizen volunteers to help install temperature monitoring devices in streams across the state. The collected data will be used to model future stream temperature predictions and help inform restoration and reintroduction strategies for Apache and Gila trout.
In coming months, Dr. Scott Bonar and students at the U of A will deploy some 25 “Tidbit” temperature data monitors in the San Francisco and Verde River drainages in Arizona and New Mexico—historical Gila trout habitat. In addition, volunteers from TU’s Gila Trout Chapter in Payson will place at least 35 temperature monitors in Gila and Apache trout waters.
These “citizen science” projects contribute greatly to scientific understanding of how native trout adapt to changing conditions, according to Williams. “We need better data on stream temperatures in areas of potential reintroduction for Gila trout. We’re looking for things like which stream stretches are spring-fed or have cooler environments for trout habitat.”
The long-term goal is to make native trout populations more resilient to climate change and wildfires.
“Collectively, the efforts by the fish, wildlife, and land management agencies, in collaboration with Trout Unlimited and other non-governmental organizations, are helping to improve the status of the three native trout species in the Southwest,” said Julie Carter, statewide native aquatics program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The more momentum we have, the greater the chances for recovery and our ability to expand opportunities to anglers to fish for these truly unique species of trout.”
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What: 8th Annual Southwest Native and Wild Trout Conference
Where: Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ
When: Thursday, April 27, 2017, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Who: Sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona Trout Unlimited state council.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.