Project Completed: Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Brook Trout

Credit: B. Letcher

A team led by Benjamin Letcher has released the final report for the recently completed NE CASC project Does Variation in Life History and Evolutionary Response Affect Species Vulnerability to Climate Change? Implications for Management.

This project provides a new understanding of how vulnerable species may adapt to climate change, which poses a variety of threats to biodiversity.

Most efforts to assess the likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity try to rank species based on their vulnerability under changed environmental conditions. But this work has not often considered the ability of organisms to adapt to the changing environment. Adding adaptability to models of population persistence should improve accuracy of forecasts.

Investigators for this project approached this issue in two ways: 1) by developing new models of Brook Trout response to changing stream temperatures and flows and 2) by developing a genetic tool for Brook Trout that will allow researchers to understand evolutionary adaption in the wild. The resulting modelling efforts showed that Brook Trout grow fastest at about 12 C and that this is about two degrees lower than estimates from laboratory studies. This work also highlighted the importance of tributaries as refuges from floods for small fish and as risky locations for larger fish in warm summers. The genetics tool identified differences among populations from Georgia to Maine and can be used in the future to evaluate genetic adaptation to stream warming among other environmental changes.

Read the Final Report >>

View the Project Page >>