Drought impacts to trout and salamanders in cool, forested headwater ecosystems in the western Cascade Mountains, OR

  • Matthew J. KaylorEmail author
  • Brian J. VerWey
  • Alvaro Cortes
  • Dana R. Warren
Primary Research Paper


Climate change projections for the western United States suggest that many regions will experience increasing frequency and severity of droughts. In summer 2015, the Pacific Northwest experienced a drought with early onset of stream low flows, reduced summer discharge, and elevated temperatures. We evaluated population responses of two dominant stream predators—coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii) and coastal giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)—across nine Cascade Mountain streams. Drought conditions impacted both trout and salamanders, but their responses differed. Adult trout abundance and biomass were significantly lower in 2015 relative to 2014, a year with discharge and temperature closer to historical norms. Juvenile trout abundance did not differ between years but juveniles were significantly larger in 2015. Salamander abundance and biomass were not significantly different between years but body condition was lower in all nine streams in 2015. Differences in temperature among streams did not explain trout or salamander responses. Habitat was important for trout responses with trout abundance and biomass experiencing smaller declines in systems with more deep pool area. Despite notable short-term drought impacts to trout and salamanders in 2015, populations recovered to pre-drought conditions within two years in all but the smallest stream.


Drought Disturbance Cutthroat trout Coastal giant salamander Climate change 



We thank Emily Heaston, Gavin Jones, Christopher Kopet, Katherine Pospisil and Emily Purvis for their extensive and committed help in conducting fieldwork. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Grant No. 1314109-DGE awarded to MJ Kaylor), the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture McIntire Stennis program (Award 1009738), and the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest research program (which is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB 1440409), US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Oregon State University). All animal collections were conducted in compliance with Oregon State University’s Animal Care and Use Committee (Permit No. 4439).

Supplementary material

10750_2019_3882_MOESM1_ESM.doc (560 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 560 kb)


  1. Arismendi, I., M. Safeeq, S. L. Johnson, J. B. Dunham & R. Haggerty, 2013. Increasing synchrony of high temperature and low flow in western North American streams: double trouble for coldwater biota? Hydrobiologia 712: 61–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldigo, B. P., D. R. Warren, A. G. Ernst & C. I. Mulvihill, 2008. Response of fish populations to natural channel design restoration in streams of the Catskill Mountains, New York. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28: 954–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bates, D., M. Maechler, B. Bolker & S. Walker, 2015. Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67: 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beechie, T., H. Imaki, J. Greene, A. Wade, H. Wu, G. Pess, P. Roni, J. Kimball, J. Stanford, P. Kiffney & N. Mantua, 2013. Restoring salmon habitat for a changing climate. River research and applications 29: 939–960.Google Scholar
  5. Bendik, N. F. & A. G. Gluesenkamp, 2013. Body length shrinkage in an endangered amphibian is associated with drought. Journal of Zoology 290: 35–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berger, A. M. & R. E. Gresswell, 2009. Factors influencing coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii) seasonal survival rates: a spatially continuous approach within stream networks. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 66: 613–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brenee’, M. L., S. J. Price & M. E. Dorcas, 2014. Capture probability and survivorship of the Southern Two-Lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) in drought and non-drought conditions. Copeia 2: 366–371.Google Scholar
  8. Carle, F. L. & M. R. Strub, 1978. A new method for rstimating population size from removal data. Biometrics 34: 621–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapman, D. G., 1951. Some properties of the hypergeometric distribution, with applications to zoological sample censuses. University of California Publications in Statistics 1: 131–160.Google Scholar
  10. Currinder, B., K. K. Cecala, R. M. Northington & M. E. Dorcas, 2014. Response of stream salamanders to experimental drought in the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 29: 579–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ebersole, J. L., W. J. Liss & C. A. Frissell, 2003. Thermal heterogeneity, stream channel morphology, and salmonid abundance in northeastern Oregon streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60: 1266–1280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elliott, J. M., 2000. Pools as refugia for brown trout during two summer droughts: trout responses to thermal and oxygen stress. Journal of Fish Biology 56: 938–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fausch, K. D., 1984. Profitable stream positions for salmonids: relating specific growth rate to net energy gain. Canadian Journal of Zoology 62: 441–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feral, D., M. A. Camann & H. H. Welsh, 2005. Dicamptodon tenebrosus larvae wthin hyporheic zones of intermittent streams in California. Herpetological Review 36: 26–27.Google Scholar
  15. Griswold, B. L., C. J. Edwards & L. C. I. Woods, 1982. Recolonization of macroinvertebrates and fish in a channelized stream after a drought. Ohio Journal of Science 82: 96–102.Google Scholar
  16. Hakala, J. P. & K. J. Hartman, 2004. Drought effect on stream morphology and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations in forested headwater streams. Hydrobiologia 515: 203–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hamlet, A. F. & D. P. Lettenmaier, 1999. Effects of climate change on hydrology and water resources in the Columbia River Basin. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 35: 1597–1623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hauer, R. F. & G. A. Lamberti (eds.), 2007. Methods in Stream Ecology, 2nd ed. Academica Press (Elsevier), San Diego.Google Scholar
  19. Hilderbrand, R. H. & J. L. Kershner, 2004. Are there differences in growth and condition between mobile and resident cutthroat trout? Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 133: 1042–1046.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. James, D. A., J. W. Wilhite & S. R. Chipps, 2010. Influence of drought conditions on brown trout biomass and size structure in the Black Hills, South Dakota. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30: 791–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaylor, M. J. & D. R. Warren, 2017. Linking riparian shade and the legacies of forest management to fish and vertebrate biomass in forested streams. Ecosphere 8: e01845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaylor, M. J. & D. R. Warren, 2018. Canopy closure after four decades of post logging riparian forest regeneration reduces cutthroat trout biomass in headwater streams through bottom-up pathways. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 75: 513–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lake, P. S., 2003. Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshwater Biology 48: 1161–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leibowitz, S. G., R. L. Comeleo, C. P. Weaver, P. E. Morefield, E. A. Sproles, & J. L. Ebersole. 2014. Hydrologic landscape classification evaluates streamflow vulnerability to climate change in Oregon, USA. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18:3367–3392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Magoulick, D. D. & R. M. Kobza, 2003. The role of refugia for fishes during drought: a review and synthesis. Freshwater Biology 48: 1186–1198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mantua, N., I. Tohver & A. Hamlet, 2010. Climate change impacts on streamflow extremes and summertime stream temperature and their possible consequences for freshwater salmon habitat in Washington State. Climatic Change 102: 187–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Matthews, K. R., N. H. Berg, D. L. Azuma & T. R. Lambert, 1994. Cool water formation and trout habitat use in a deep pool in the Sierra Nevada, California. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123: 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. May, C. L. & D. C. Lee, 2004. The relationships among in-channel sediment storage, pool depth, and summer survival of juvenile salmonids in Oregon Coast Range streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 24: 761–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moore, K. M. S. & S. V. Gregory, 1988a. Habitat utilization and ecology of cutthroat trout fry (Salmo Clarki) in Cascade Mountain streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 45: 1921–1930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore, K. M. S. & S. V. Gregory, 1988b. Response of young-of-the-year cutthroat trout to manipulation of habitat structure in a small stream. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 117: 162–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mote, P. W., E. A. Parson, A. F. Hamlet, W. S. Keeton, D. Lettenmaier, N. Mantua, E. L. Miles, D. W. Peterson, D. L. Peterson, R. Slaughter & A. K. Snover, 2003. Preparing for climatic change: The water, salmon, and forests of the Pacific Northwest. Climatic Change 61: 45–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mote, P. W., D. E. Rupp, S. Li, D. J. Sharp, F. Otto, P. F. Uhe, M. Xiao, D. P. Lettenmaier, H. Cullen & M. R. Allen, 2016. Perspectives on the causes of exceptionally low 2015 snowpack in the western United States. Geophysical Research Letters 43: 980–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nussbaum, R. A. & G. W. Clothier, 1973. Population structure, growth, and size of larval Dicamptodon ensatus. Northwest Science 47: 218–227.Google Scholar
  34. Penaluna, B. E., J. B. Dunham, S. F. Railsback, I. Arismendi, S. L. Johnson, R. E. Bilby, M. Safeeq & A. E. Skaugset, 2015. Local variability mediates vulnerability of trout populations to land use and climate change. PLoS ONE 10: 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Power, M. E., J. R. Holomuzki & R. L. Lowe, 2013. Food webs in Mediterranean rivers. Hydrobiologia 719: 119–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Price, S. J., R. A. Browne & M. E. Dorcas, 2012. Resistance and resilience of a stream salamander to supraseasonal drought. Herpetologica 68: 312–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. R Core Team, 2015. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.Google Scholar
  38. Roni, P., 2002. Habitat use by fishes and pacific giant salamanders in small western Oregon and Washington streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 131: 743–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roni, P., K. Hanson & T. Beechie, 2008. Global review of the physical and biological effectiveness of stream habitat rehabilitation techniques. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28: 856–890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sheldon, K. A. (2010). Season-specific survival and growth rates of coastal cutthroat trout across a gradient of stream sizes in southwestern British Columbia (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia).Google Scholar
  41. Sproles, E. A., A. W. Nolin, K. Rittger & T. H. Painter, 2013. Climate change impacts on maritime mountain snowpack in the Oregon Cascades. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17: 2581–2597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van Deventer, J. S. & W. S. Platts, 1989. Microcomputer software system for generating population statistics from electrofishing data—user’s guide for MicroFish 3.0. U.S. Forest Service, Ogden, UT.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. VerWey, B. J., M. J. Kaylor, T. S. Garcia & D. R. Warren, 2018. Impacts of a severe drought on cutthroat trout in a western Oregon headwater ecosystem. Northwestern Naturalist 99: 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Walters, A. W., 2016. The importance of context dependence for understanding the effects of low-flow events on fish. Freshwater Science 35: 216–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Warren, D. R. & C. E. Kraft, 2003. Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) response to wood removal from high-gradient streams of the Adirondack Mountains (N.Y., U.S.A.). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60: 379–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Werner, E. E., 1986. Amphibian metamorphosis: growth rate, predation risk, and the optimal size at transformation. The American Naturalist 128: 319–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Williams, J. E., A. L. Haak, H. M. Neville & W. T. Colyer, 2009. Potential consequences of climate change to persistence of cutthroat trout populations. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 29: 533–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Williams, J. E., H. M. Neville, A. L. Haak, W. T. Colyer, W. J. Seth & S. Bradshaw, 2015. Climate change adaptation and restoration of- western trout streams: opportunities and strategies. Fisheries 40: 304–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest Ecosystems and SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations