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Warmer temperatures interact with salinity to weaken physiological facilitation to stress in freshwater fishes

December 15, 2020

Management of stressors requires an understanding of how multiple stressors interact, how different species respond to those interactions and the underlying mechanisms driving observed patterns in species' responses. Salinization and rising temperatures are two pertinent stressors predicted to intensify in freshwater ecosystems, posing concern for how susceptible organisms achieve and maintain homeostasis (i.e. allostasis). Here, glucocorticoid hormones (e.g. cortisol), responsible for mobilizing energy (e.g. glucose) to relevant physiological processes for the duration of stressors, are liable to vary in response to the duration and severity of salinization and temperature rises. With field and laboratory studies, we evaluated how both salinity and temperature influence basal and stress-reactive cortisol and glucose levels in age 1+ mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii), mountain sucker (Catostomus platyrhynchus) and Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus). We found that temperature generally had the greatest effect on cortisol and glucose concentrations and the effect of salinity was often temperature dependent. We also found that when individuals were chronically exposed to higher salinities, baseline concentrations of cortisol and glucose usually declined as salinity increased. Reductions in baseline concentrations facilitated stronger stress reactivity for cortisol and glucose when exposed to additional stressors, which weakened as temperatures increased. Controlled temperatures near the species' thermal maxima became the overriding factor regulating fish physiology, resulting in inhibitory responses. With projected increases in freshwater salinization and temperatures, efforts to reduce the negative effects of increasing temperatures (i.e. increased refuge habitats and riparian cover) could moderate the inhibitory effects of temperature-dependent effects of salinization for freshwater fishes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Warmer temperatures interact with salinity to weaken physiological facilitation to stress in freshwater fishes
DOI 10.1093/conphys/coaa107
Authors Richard H. Walker, Geoffrey D. Smith, Spencer B . Hudson, Susannah S. Susannah S. French, Annika W. Walters
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Physiology
Series Number
Index ID 70228158
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle

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