Understanding Drought Refuges for Rangeland Stream Fishes

Periodic drying of rangeland streams is an integral process, and many species present in these areas have adapted to intermittent conditions. In intermittent streams, areas that are resistant to drying may serve as refuge for fish to recolonize once connectivity of the stream is restored. However, as drought increases with a changing climate, the area of habitat that once served as refuge may be constricting, potentially leaving fewer areas that can offer retreat during dry periods.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the patterns of drying on a landscape scale. Doing so would give information on suitable habitat that may persist year-round despite increasing drought. It is also essential to understand how different rangeland stream fish species are impacted by drying, and if any are particularly sensitive to increased intermittency.

This study seeks to understand the relationship between streamflow permanence, fish distribution, and habitat characteristics in rangeland systems of eastern Wyoming and Montana. The main goals of this study are to ground truth a model that has the potential to map streamflow permanence on a landscape level and understand the how rangeland fish species respond to drying stream conditions. This study will help to inform rangeland stream management as well as identify areas that may serve as refuge and be of greatest conservation concern.

Contact

Elizabeth Rieger, masters student

Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Department of Zoology & Physiology, University of Wyoming

Dept. 3166, 1000 E University Ave

Laramie, WY 82071

[email protected]

 

Annika Walters, Assistant Unit Leader

U.S. Geological Survey,

Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Department of Zoology & Physiology, University of Wyoming

Dept. 3166, 1000 E University Ave

Laramie, WY 82071

[email protected]

Project Lead