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Co-production of models to evaluate conservation alternatives for a threatened fish in a rapidly changing landscape

December 12, 2023

Reintroductions are one means of managing species distributions, but the feasibility of such efforts is uncertain. Here we consider reintroduction for threatened bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) that currently occupy a small fraction of historically occupied habitats in the upper Klamath River basin owing to climate warming and human modifications of ecosystems. We engaged stakeholders across multiple organizations to co-produce a decision support model that estimated the potential of reintroduction to establish new populations and persistence of donor populations. Stakeholders identified recipient and donor populations, strategy (e.g., artificial propagation, translocation), number of individuals, and life stage of bull trout. The most optimal decision for reintroduction was artificial propagation of 10,000 fry into Annie Creek. This strategy may have negative consequences on donor populations, with the exception of Sun Creek, which was resilient to simulated removal of bull trout. Donor populations and recipient streams identified as most feasible were generally consistent across all of these scenarios. During model development, however, an unexpected and intense wildfire affected half of the streams considered and may have dramatically impacted donor populations. With models in hand from the initial feasibility assessment, we adapted them to further evaluate the potential of supplementation following this massive disturbance. Overall, results of this study indicate the value of developing co-produced tools that can be rapidly adapted to evaluate the consequences of whole-system transformations in near-real-time assessments.

Publication Year 2024
Title Co-production of models to evaluate conservation alternatives for a threatened fish in a rapidly changing landscape
DOI 10.1007/s00027-023-01030-1
Authors Joseph R. Benjamin, Jason B. Dunham, Nolan P. Banish, David K Hering, Zachary Tiemann
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Aquatic Sciences
Index ID 70251247
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center