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Modelling expected trout ranges under current and future water temperature regimes in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

NA Rivers-Moore, BR Ellender, OLF Weyl
African journal of aquatic science 2019 v.44 no.1 pp. 35-42
Oncorhynchus mykiss, Salmo trutta, cold, digital elevation models, habitats, probability, rivers, sport fishing, trout, water, water temperature, South Africa
Different values have resulted in conflicts between anglers and conservation lobbies in the management of trout in South Africa. Key to the conflict is the demarcation of boundaries to areas in which brown trout Salmo trutta and rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss currently occur, or are likely to establish following stocking for angling. To provide a longer-term perspective on these areas, we developed models to link salmonid biological thermal thresholds to elevation. These, when applied spatially using a digital elevation model with a probability of occurrence model, provided the basis for estimating potentially available thermal habitat for these two cold water species. Here, we acknowledge that other variables (stocking history; river connectivity) also play a role in understanding trout distributions. Using a simple scenario of an increase in mean daily water temperatures of 2 °C, we demonstrated that both brown and rainbow trout are likely to exhibit considerable range reductions in the future. Because it is possible that these range restrictions will result in an increasing desire to introduce trout into areas above their current distribution limits for the maintenance of angling opportunities, conservation managers should prioritise these areas, with management interventions seeking to understand what will help to limit introductions.