Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019NH175B

Pressure-cooked: Synergistic impacts of chemical, thermal and physical threats to native Brook trout

Institute: New Hampshire
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-18 End Date: 2020-06-17
Total Federal Funds: $20,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,116

Principal Investigators: Amy M. Villamagna

Abstract: Unimpeded movement is critical for fish to access high quality habitat throughout their life cycle. Unfortunately, many stream/river networks are fragmented by chemical, thermal, and physical barriers resulting from land development, stormwater runoff, and acid deposition, thus making fragmentation a leading threat to stream and river fishes in the northeast US. This is particularly true for coldwater-fish, like Brook trout, that are naturally constrained by habitat suitability. Although Brook trout are well studied (e.g. Nislow and Lowe 2003, Chadwick et al. 2015; Kanno et al. 2015, etc.), there are few recent publications about NH populations and their response to these threats. The relative rarity of Brook trout streams (only 7% of subwatersheds in NH) compounded with the species’ ecological importance in low diversity coldwater systems, makes research and conservation efforts in each subwatershed important for maintaining healthy and diverse populations of this valuable species. The proposed project is multi-trophic, multidimensional, and multi-disciplinary. It integrates chemical, thermal, hydrologic, and biological field assessment alongside molecular, genetic, spatial and statistical analyses to assess the impacts on Brook trout. Our research efforts focus on the Beebe River watershed, a subwatershed of the Pemigewasset River basin, where these three threats may be synergistically constraining wild Brook trout distribution and limiting density and biomass. More specifically, we propose an expansion of on-going research in the watershed (initiated in 2016) to investigate how chemical, thermal, and physical barriers are affecting wild Brook trout at the molecular, genetic, organismal, and population levels.