Researchers in Oregon: The Archie Creek fire, which started in September 2020 and was located close to Roseburg, Oregon, consumed all 5,000 acres of the Hinkle Creek watershed. This watershed was the natural habitat of the rainbow, cutthroat, and steelhead trout.
Researchers in Oregon Found That Certain Trout Can Tolerate Warmer Water Temperatures
Scientists from Oregon State University who had been researching the fish for years came to the conclusion that the loss of tree cover would result in higher stream temperatures, which would cause the fish to become stressed and, eventually, die. Instead, the researchers discovered that by the end of the summer of the following year, trout populations had not only been unaffected by the event, but in some locations, they had even expanded.
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According to the primary investigator, Dana Warren, who was quoted in a news release, “the fish in this system showed to be extremely durable to these elevated temperatures — at least within the range that we witnessed here.”
In September, the findings were published in the journal Ecosphere by Warren and three other co-authors from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife as well as the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. The researchers think that this might be a positive sign for the capacity of trout species to endure the ongoing effects of climate change, which include an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters like wildfires and higher water temperatures.
Abrupt changes to an environment, such as those caused by fire, can give essential insights into the ways in which different species of fish are directly impacted by rising temperatures and the ways in which they react to such significant shifts in their habitats.
Anyone who has ever taken a kid to a stocked trout pond know the fish can survive warm water. But their flesh softens & they taste terrible. There's a difference btw surviving & thriving.
Some Oregon trout withstand rising water temperatures, study finds https://t.co/5jZgcsS5T2
— Tim Nesbitt (@TimNesbittOR) December 21, 2022
The temperature of the water in which the fish had been dwelling had been around 59 degrees Fahrenheit on average before the fire. After that, they were living in temperatures that were around 7 degrees higher on average throughout the summer of 2021, and at times in water that rose as high as 77 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than they had ever encountered before.
The researchers noted that because the majority of the aquatic species in the watershed are cold-water species, the trout did not face competition from warm-water species. These warm-water species could have increased their populations or had greater access to food if the temperatures had been higher. This may be a more significant problem in watersheds that have a broader variety of species that are native to both cold and warm water.
According to the researchers, there are a variety of other potential contributors to the trout’s ability to thrive in warmer waters. According to what scientists found, periodic releases of cold groundwater may have assisted the fish in cooling off. They may have also been able to recuperate from the heat of the day when the temperatures dropped at night. According to the findings of the study, there may have been an increase in the quantity of food that was available over the summer.
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According to what Warren stated in the press release, further research has to be carried out. They intend to do research on a variety of other fish and amphibians that live in the watershed as well, such as the coastal giant salamander and the sculpin. The researchers have access to sufficient resources to maintain their investigation of the watershed for at least the next four years.
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