Developing precipitation- and groundwater-corrected stream temperature models to improve brook charr management amid climate change

  • Andrew K. CarlsonEmail author
  • William W. Taylor
  • Dana M. Infante


Conserving coldwater stream ecosystems in a warming world requires understanding how water temperature changes will affect the sustainability of coldwater fish populations such as brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis). To date, many models for predicting stream temperature have either assumed spatially uniform (inaccurate) air-stream temperature relationships or required expensive measurement of hydrometeorological drivers (e.g., solar radiation, convection) in a manner impractical for fisheries management. Hence, we developed an accurate, cost-effective, management-relevant modeling approach for projecting how changes in air temperature, precipitation, and groundwater inputs will affect coldwater stream temperatures and brook charr survival and growth in Michigan, USA. Precipitation- and groundwater-corrected models predicted stream temperatures more accurately than air-stream temperature models. Projected stream warming intensified in proportion to simulated air temperature warming and was most extreme in surface runoff-dominated streams with limited groundwater-driven thermal buffering. However, groundwater-dominated streams will not invariably provide sufficient coldwater habitats for brook charr survival and growth if groundwater temperatures increase or groundwater inputs decline due to reduced precipitation. Amid resource limitations, fisheries managers can use the stream temperature modeling approach described herein to predict effects of climate change on brook charr survival and growth and take actions to facilitate their sustainability in riverine systems.


Brook charr Climate change Coldwater streams Groundwater Growth Precipitation Survival 



The lead author thanks Bruce Vondracek (emeritus USGS Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Minnesota) for inspiring him to become a fisheries scientist. We thank the Editors and Reviewers for helpful comments that improved this manuscript. We thank Jennifer Moore Myers (United States Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center) and Stacy Nelson and Ernie Hain (North Carolina State University) for assisting with air temperature data acquisition and projection models. We thank Kyle Herreman and Wesley Daniel (Michigan State University [MSU]); Troy Zorn, Tracy Kolb, and Todd Wills (Michigan Department of Natural Resources); and Henry Quinlan (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) for assisting in procurement of environmental and brook charr population data for this study. Further, we acknowledge the Programme for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling for their helpful guidance regarding use of the WCRP CMIP3 multimodel data set. We especially wish to thank Than Hitt (United States Geological Survey) for thought-provoking discussion at the 2015 conference “Advances in the Population Ecology of Stream Salmonids IV” that informed development of this paper. The first author thanks the many donors and funding sources that made it possible to conduct the research leading to this paper, including the University Distinguished Fellowship (MSU), the MSU Graduate School, the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Robert C. Ball and Betty A. Ball Fisheries and Wildlife Fellowship (MSU), the Schrems West Michigan Chapter of Trout Unlimited Fellowship, the Red Cedar Fly Fishers Graduate Fellowship, and the Fly Fishers International Conservation Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Almodóvar, A., G. G. Nicola, D. Ayllón & B. Elvira, 2012. Global warming threatens the persistence of Mediterranean brown trout. Global Change Biology 18: 1549–1560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold, T. W., 2010. Uninformative parameters and model selection using Akaike’s Information Criterion. Journal of Wildlife Management 74: 1175–1178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin, N. S., 1957. Food consumption and growth of brook trout at different temperatures. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 86: 323–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burnham, K. P. & D. R. Anderson, 2002. Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Carlson, A. K., W. W. Taylor, K. M. Schlee, T. G. Zorn & D. M. Infante, 2016. Projected impacts of climate change on stream salmonids with implications for resilience-based management. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 26: 190–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carlson, A. K., W. W. Taylor, K. M. Hartikainen, D. M. Infante, T. Douglas Beard & A. J. Lynch, 2017. Comparing stream-specific to generalized temperature models to guide salmonid management in a changing climate. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 27: 443–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cherkauer, K. A. & T. Sinha, 2010. Hydrologic impacts of projected future climate change in the Lake Michigan region. Journal of Great Lakes Research 36: 33–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Constantz, J., 1998. Interaction between stream temperature, streamflow, and groundwater exchanges in Alpine streams. Water Resources Research 34: 1609–1615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooper, A. R., D. M. Infante, K. E. Wehrly, L. Wang & T. O. Brenden, 2016. Identifying indicators and quantifying large-scale effects of dams on fishes. Ecological Indicators 61: 646–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dukić, V. & V. Mihailović, 2012. Analysis of groundwater regime on the basis of streamflow hydrograph. Facta Universitatis 10: 301–314.Google Scholar
  11. Dunham, J., G. Chandler, B. Rieman, and D. Martin, 2005. Measuring stream temperature with digital data loggers: a user’s guide. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-150WWW. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Ebersole, J. L., W. J. Liss & C. A. Frissell, 2003. Cold water patches in warm streams: physicochemical characteristics and the influence of shading. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 39: 355–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Enviro-weather Automated Weather Station Network (EAWSN), 2018. Michigan State University. Accessed 13 June 2018, [available on internet at
  14. Fry, F. E. J., J. S. Hart & K. F. Walker, 1946. Lethal temperature relations for a sample of young speckled trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, Vol. 54. The University of Toronto Press, Toronto.Google Scholar
  15. Godby Jr., N. A., E. S. Rutherford & D. M. Mason, 2007. Diet, feeding rate, growth, mortality, and production of juvenile steelhead in a Lake Michigan tributary. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 27: 578–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hansen, G. J. A., J. W. Gaeta, J. W. Hansen & S. R. Carpenter, 2015. Learning to manage and managing to learn: sustaining freshwater recreational fisheries in a changing environment. Fisheries 40: 56–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hayes, D. B., W. W. Taylor, M. Drake, S. Marod & G. Whelan, 1998. The value of headwaters to brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in the Ford River, Michigan, USA. In Haigh, M. J., J. Krecek, G. S. Rajwar & M. P. Kilmartin (eds), Headwaters: Water Resources and Soil Conservation. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi: 75–185.Google Scholar
  18. Hayes, D. B., H. Dodd & J. Lessard, 2006. Effects of small dams on cold water stream fish communities. In Nelson, J., J. J. Dodson, K. Friedland, T. R. Hamon, J. Musick & E. Verspoor (eds), Reconciling fisheries with conservation. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda: 587–602.Google Scholar
  19. Hayhoe, K., J. VanDorn, T. Croley, N. Schlegal & D. Wuebbles, 2010. Regional climate change projections for Chicago and the US Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research 36: 7–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hershkovitz, Y., V. Dahm, A. W. Lorenz & D. Hering, 2015. A multi-trait approach for the identification and protection of European freshwater species that are potentially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ecological Indicators 50: 150–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holling, C. S., 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Geneva: 104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Isaak, D. J., S. Wollrab, D. Horan & G. Chandler, 2012. Climate change effects on streamand river temperatures across the northwestern US from 1980–2009 and implications for salmonid fishes. Climatic Change 113: 499–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kanno, Y., B. H. Letcher, A. L. Rosner, K. P. O’Neil & K. H. Nislow, 2015. Environmental factors affecting brook trout occurrence in headwater stream segments. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 144: 373–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Karas, N., 2015. Brook trout: a thorough look at North America’s great native trout – its history, biology, and angling possibilities. Skyhorse Publishing, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Kaushal, S. S., G. E. Likens, N. A. Jaworski, M. L. Pace, A. M. Sides, D. Seekell, K. T. Belt, D. H. Secor & R. L. Wingate, 2010. Rising stream and river temperatures in the United States. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 461–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knight, K., 2009. Land use planning for salmon, steelhead and trout. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Olympia, Washington. [accessed 4 February 2019].
  28. Kurylyk, B. L., S. P. A. Bourque & K. T. B. MacQuarrie, 2013. Potential surface temperature and shallow groundwater temperature responses to climate change: an example from a small forested catchment in east-central New Brunswick (Canada). Hydrology and Earth Systems Sciences 17: 2701–2716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leach, J. A. & R. D. Moore, 2011. Stream temperature dynamics in two hydrogeomorphically distinct reaches. Hydrological Processes 25: 679–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. LeBlanc, R. T., R. B. Brown & J. E. FitzGibbon, 1997. Modeling the effects of land use change on the water temperature in unregulated urban streams. Journal of Environmental Management 49: 445–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loomis, J., P. Kent, L. Strange, K. Fausch & A. Covich, 2000. Measuring the total economic value of restoring ecosystem services in an impaired river basin: results from a contingent valuation survey. Ecological Economics 33: 103–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyons, J., J. S. Stewart & M. Mitro, 2010. Predicted effects of climate warming on the distribution of 50 stream fishes in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Journal of Fish Biology 77: 1867–1898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maurer, E. P., L. Brekke, T. Pruitt & P. B. Duffy, 2007. Fine-resolution climate projections enhance regional climate change impact studies. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 88: 504–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKergow, L., S. Parkyn, R. Collins & P. Pattinson, 2005. Small headwater streams of the Auckland Region. Volume 2: hydrology and water quality. Auckland Regional Council 312: 1–67.Google Scholar
  35. Menberg, K., P. Blum, B. L. Kurylyk & P. Bayer, 2014. Observed groundwater temperature response to recent climate change. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18: 4453–4466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Merriam, E. R., R. Fernandez, J. T. Petty & N. Zegre, 2017. Can brook trout survive climate change in large rivers? If it rains. Science of the Total Environment 607–608: 1225–1236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Neff, B. D., S. M. Day, A. R. Piggott & L. M. Fuller, 2005. Base flow in the Great Lakes basin. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5217, Reston, Virginia, USA, 23 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Onset Computer Corporation. 2009. HOBO U22 water temp pro v2: user’s manual. Document 10366-C. Onset Computer Corporation, Bourne, Massachusetts, USA.Google Scholar
  39. Parry, M., O. Canziani, J. Palutikof, P. van der Linden & C. Hanson, 2007. Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. International Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.Google Scholar
  40. Paukert, C. P., B. A. Glazer, G. J. A. Hansen, B. J. Irwin, P. C. Jacobsen, J. L. Kershner, B. J. Shuter, J. E. Whitney & A. J. Lynch, 2016. Adapting inland fisheries management to a changing climate. Fisheries 41: 374–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pease, A. A. & C. P. Paukert, 2014. Potential impacts of climate change on growth and prey consumption of stream-dwelling smallmouth bass in the central United States. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 23: 336–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peterson, E. E. & J. M. Ver Hoef, 2010. A mixed-model moving-average approach to geostatistical modeling in stream networks. Ecology 91: 644–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Primack, A. G. B., 2000. Simulation of climate-change effects on riparian vegetation in the Pere Marquette River, Michigan. Wetlands 20: 538–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Raleigh, R.F., 1982. Habitat Suitability Index Models: Brook Trout. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report Number 82, Washington, D.C., USA, 42 pp.Google Scholar
  45. RStudio. 2015. Boston (MA): RStudio, Inc; [accessed 13 April 2018].
  46. Santiago, J. M., D. G. de Jalón, C. Alonso, J. Solana, J. Ribalaygua, J. Pórtoles & R. Monjo, 2015. Brown trout thermal niche and climate change: expected changes in the distribution of cold-water fish in central Spain. Ecohydrology 9: 514–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Siitari, K. J., W. W. Taylor, S. A. C. Nelson & K. E. Weaver, 2011. The influence of land cover composition and groundwater on thermal habitat availability for brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations in the United States of America. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 20: 431–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Snyder, C. D., N. P. Hitt & J. A. Young, 2015. Accounting for groundwater in stream fish thermal habitat responses to climate change. Ecological Applications 25: 1397–1419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Steen, P. J., M. J. Wiley & J. S. Schaeffer, 2010. Predicting future changes in Muskegon River watershed game fish distributions under future land cover alteration and climate change scenarios. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 139: 396–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stoner, A. M. K., K. Hayhoe, X. H. Yang & D. J. Wuebbles, 2013. An asynchronous regional regression model for statistical downscaling of daily climate variables. International Journal of Climatology 33: 2473–2494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), 2011. 2011 National survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.: 172.Google Scholar
  52. Waco, K. E. & W. W. Taylor, 2010. The influence of groundwater withdrawal and land use changes on brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) thermal habitat in two coldwater tributaries in Michigan, USA. Hydrobiologia 650: 101–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Webb, B. W., D. M. Hannah, R. D. Moore, L. E. Brown & F. Nobilis, 2008. Recent advances in stream and river temperature research. Hydrological Processes 22: 902–918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Westhoff, J. T. & C. P. Paukert, 2014. Climate change simulations predict altered biotic response in a thermally heterogeneous stream system. PLoS ONE 9: e111438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Westhoff, M. C., M. N. Gooseff, T. A. Bogaard & H. H. G. Savenije, 2011. Quantifying hyporheic exchange at high spatial resolution using natural temperature variations along a first-order stream. Water Resources Research 47: W10508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Woodward, G., D. M. Perkins & L. E. Brown, 2010. Climate change and freshwater ecosystems: impacts across multiple levels of organization. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365: 2093–2106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zorn, T. G., P. W. Seelbach & M. J. Wiley, 2011. Developing user-friendly habitat suitability tools from regional stream fish survey data. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 31: 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and BehaviorMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations