Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 135–151 | Cite as

Impacts of climatic variation on trout: a global synthesis and path forward

  • Ryan P. Kovach
  • Clint C. Muhlfeld
  • Robert Al-Chokhachy
  • Jason B. Dunham
  • Benjamin H. Letcher
  • Jeffrey L. Kershner


Despite increasing concern that climate change may negatively impact trout—a globally distributed group of fish with major economic, ecological, and cultural value—a synthetic assessment of empirical data quantifying relationships between climatic variation and trout ecology does not exist. We conducted a systematic review to describe how temporal variation in temperature and streamflow influences trout ecology in freshwater ecosystems. Few studies (n = 42) have quantified relationships between temperature or streamflow and trout demography, growth, or phenology, and nearly all estimates (96 %) were for Salvelinus fontinalis and Salmo trutta. Only seven studies used temporal data to quantify climate-driven changes in trout ecology. Results from these studies were beset with limitations that prohibited quantitatively rigorous meta-analysis, a concerning inadequacy given major investment in trout conservation and management worldwide. Nevertheless, consistent patterns emerged from our synthesis, particularly a positive effect of summer streamflow on trout demography and growth; 64 % of estimates were positive and significant across studies, age classes, species, and locations, highlighting that climate-induced changes in hydrology may have numerous consequences for trout. To a lesser degree, summer and fall temperatures were negatively related to population demography (51 and 53 % of estimates, respectively), but temperature was rarely related to growth. To address limitations and uncertainties, we recommend: (1) systematically improving data collection, description, and sharing; (2) appropriately integrating climate impacts with other intrinsic and extrinsic drivers over the entire lifecycle; (3) describing indirect consequences of climate change; and (4) acknowledging and describing intrinsic resiliency.


Climate change Trout Streamflow Temperature Ecology Climatic variation 



This work was funded by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Center. R.P.K. was supported by a USGS Mendenhall Fellowship. We thank Peter Westley, Javier Lobón-Cerviá and three anonymous reviewers for comments and thoughts that substantially improved the manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Supplementary material

11160_2015_9414_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (111 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 110 kb)


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Rocky Mountain Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyWest GlacierUSA
  2. 2.Flathead Lake Biological StationUniversity of MontanaPolsonUSA
  3. 3.Northern Rocky Mountain Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyBozemanUSA
  4. 4.Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyCorvallisUSA
  5. 5.S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyTurner FallsUSA

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