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Predicted effects of climate warming on the distribution of 50 stream fishes in Wisconsin, U.S.A.

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Summer air and stream water temperatures are expected to rise in the state of Wisconsin, U.S.A., over the next 50 years. To assess potential climate warming effects on stream fishes, predictive models were developed for 50 common fish species using classification-tree analysis of 69 environmental variables in a geographic information system. Model accuracy was 56·0–93·5% in validation tests. Models were applied to all 86 898 km of stream in the state under four different climate scenarios: current conditions, limited climate warming (summer air temperatures increase 1° C and water 0·8° C), moderate warming (air 3° C and water 2·4° C) and major warming (air 5° C and water 4° C). With climate warming, 23 fishes were predicted to decline in distribution (three to extirpation under the major warming scenario), 23 to increase and four to have no change. Overall, declining species lost substantially more stream length than increasing species gained. All three cold-water and 16 cool-water fishes and four of 31 warm-water fishes were predicted to decline, four warm-water fishes to remain the same and 23 warm-water fishes to increase in distribution. Species changes were predicted to be most dramatic in small streams in northern Wisconsin that currently have cold to cool summer water temperatures and are dominated by cold-water and cool-water fishes, and least in larger and warmer streams and rivers in southern Wisconsin that are currently dominated by warm-water fishes. Results of this study suggest that even small increases in summer air and water temperatures owing to climate warming will have major effects on the distribution of stream fishes in Wisconsin.

Keywords: classification trees; climate change; geographic information systems; habitat; water temperature

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: U.S. Geological Survey, 8505 Research Way, Middleton, WI 53562, U.S.A. 2: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2801 Progress Road, Madison, WI 53716, U.S.A.

Publication date: November 1, 2010


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