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Individual Highlight

California golden trout and future climate warming

Photo of Snapshot : The California golden trout is imperiled due to exotic trout, genetic introgression, and degraded habitat, and faces further stress from climate warming. Stream areas vulnerable to future warming have been identified so that managers can focus future restoration efforts for California's state fish.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Matthews, Kathleen R. 
Research Location : Sierra Nevada
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 345


The California golden trout (CGT), Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita, is one of the few native high-elevation fishes in the Sierra Nevada. They are imperiled because of exotic trout, genetic introgression, and degraded habitat, and now face further stress from climate warming. Their native habitat on the Kern Plateau meadows, primarily within the Golden Trout Wilderness (GTW), currently includes stream areas impacted by cattle grazing. As a result, some areas have reduced streamside vegetation (willows or sedge) and widened channels with shallow stream depths that often lead to warmer water temperatures. Earlier work documented that the current levels of grazing were not allowing the stream habitat to recover so the Inyo National Forest rested several meadows. Climate change will further compromise CGT and their habitat in stream areas still being grazed, because the warmer water temperatures predicted under most warming scenarios could increase to lethal levels. One important management response to climate warming will be to ensure that habitats are more resilient to predicted changes in water temperature, flow, and snow pack. A study has been initiated to determine the climate change resiliency of golden trout habitat by conducting a spatially explicit analysis of stream temperatures in restored and degraded sections of meadows in the GTW. Preliminary data from 2008 to 2010 indicate that stream temperatures often reached 25oC in degraded areas. These high temperatures are reportedly lethal for salmonids, but may affect CGT in more subtle ways such as growth, condition, or long-term survival. Moreover, CGT experienced an extremely high diel range of temperatures (+ 15oC) which will further stress trout. The current work in the Golden Trout Wilderness will provide essential information on which stream areas are most vulnerable to warming, and will help managers make CGT habitat more resilient to future warming.

Additional Resources

Wild Trout Symposium(web site)

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Inyo National Forest, Cal Trout California Department of Fish & Game

Program Areas