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Summer Thermal Thresholds of Fish Community Transitions in Connecticut Streams

Beauchene, Mike, Becker, Mary, Bellucci, Christopher J., Hagstrom, Neal, Kanno, Yoichiro
North American journal of fisheries management 2014 v.34 no.1 pp. 119-131
Ambloplites rupestris, Ameiurus, Cottus cognatus, Lepomis, Micropterus dolomieu, Salvelinus fontinalis, climate change, fish, fish communities, heat tolerance, indicator species, planning, streams, summer, temperate zones, water temperature, Connecticut
Thermal tolerances have been studied for individual fish species but few have investigated how stream fish assemblages respond along a temperature gradient and which thermal ranges act as a threshold, triggering discernible community change. The purpose of this study was to define summer temperature thresholds of fish community transitions in Connecticut streams. The program Threshold Indicator Taxa Analysis suggested that the coldwater class had a June–August mean water temperature < 18.29°C, the coolwater class 18.29–21.70°C, and a warmwater class > 21.70°C. Significant indicator species of coldwater streams were Slimy Sculpin Cottus cognatus and Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis. Significant indicator species of warmwater streams were Cutlip Minnow Exoglossum maxillingua , Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu , Rock Bass Ambloplites rupestris , Brown Bullhead Ameiurus nebulosus , Redbreast Sunfish Lepomis auritus and Yellow Bullhead A. natalis . The narrow 3.41°C temperature range between the coldwater and warmwater thresholds was designated as a coolwater transition zone, with potential for the presence of both coldwater and warmwater species and lack of species uniquely associated with this thermal range. Our approach based on a robust set of water temperature and fish community data should be applicable to other temperate regions and will be useful for informing development of thermal criteria, application of multimetric indices, and planning for anticipated effects of climate change.