Conservation Alert: How Much Could Warming Affect Brook Trout Habitat?
Brook trout are one of the most revered species for fly fishing, ranging from Maine to Georgia, all over the Midwest Great Lakes region, and across the west. How far will you need to drive to fish for brookies, if warming shrinks their habitat?
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What You Need To Know
Issue: Brook trout thrive in cold, clear mountain rivers and brooks. Hence their name, as they can thrive in smaller pocket water streams than any other trout species. Not to debate the causes, but now superimpose the warming trend on brook trout habitat, what happens? If water temperatures rise, brook trout will be pushed further upstream, fewer streams will offer suitable habitat, and overall habitat will be reduced.
To figure this out, the researchers calculated how far you’d need to drive from 23 cities throughout the eastern brook trout range, to the 10 nearest streams likely to have wild brook trout under current and then projected future conditions.
Published in a recent issue of Fisheries journal, the results are startling. The authors project that on average, in the next 70-80 years, anglers will need to drive 164 miles further to reach brook trout fisheries. That’s two-and-a-half to three hours of additional driving, one way (on top of what currently ranges from a 4 to 87 mile drive depending on where you live).
Of course, all projections are uncertain, which is why the scientists modeled a range of scenarios. Studies like this can be complex, but the authors did a nice job translating the results into terms that mean something – time and money traveling, versus spending time actually fishing.
Actions: First, there are some great articles and the journal research you can read for more information (see links below) if of interest to you. Next, find ways to get involved in mitigating global warming, by contributing or volunteering with tree planting and other conservation efforts.
Other very practical ways you can contribute are reducing automobile emissions, buying your energy from cleaner sources, installing a heat pump, and many other strategies.
Perhaps most importantly, help get the word out so others are aware and can do their part too. After all, we are so collectively mesmerized by the beauty of the brook trout, that it doesn’t even matter if we catch and release only small ones on a given day. In fact that’s half the fun as they are so incredibly scrappy and colorful!
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