Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 463–479 | Cite as

Forecasted range shifts of arid-land fishes in response to climate change

  • James E. Whitney
  • Joanna B. Whittier
  • Craig P. Paukert
  • Julian D. Olden
  • Angela L. Strecker
Research Paper


Climate change is poised to alter the distributional limits, center, and size of many species. Traits may influence different aspects of range shifts, with trophic generality facilitating shifts at the leading edge, and greater thermal tolerance limiting contractions at the trailing edge. The generality of relationships between traits and range shifts remains ambiguous however, especially for imperiled fishes residing in xeric riverscapes. Our objectives were to quantify contemporary fish distributions in the Lower Colorado River Basin, forecast climate change by 2085 using two general circulation models, and quantify shifts in the limits, center, and size of fish elevational ranges according to fish traits. We examined relationships among traits and range shift metrics either singly using univariate linear modeling or combined with multivariate redundancy analysis. We found that trophic and dispersal traits were associated with shifts at the leading and trailing edges, respectively, although projected range shifts were largely unexplained by traits. As expected, piscivores and omnivores with broader diets shifted upslope most at the leading edge while more specialized invertivores exhibited minimal changes. Fishes that were more mobile shifted upslope most at the trailing edge, defying predictions. No traits explained changes in range center or size. Finally, current preference explained multivariate range shifts, as fishes with faster current preferences exhibited smaller multivariate changes. Although range shifts were largely unexplained by traits, more specialized invertivorous fishes with lower dispersal propensity or greater current preference may require the greatest conservation efforts because of their limited capacity to shift ranges under climate change.


Climate change Imperiled fish Nonnative fish Range shifts Rivers Trait-based approach 



We thank the U.S. National Aquatic Gap Analysis Program, the U.S. National Climate Change and Wildlife Sciences Center, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for funding provided to complete this project. The fish occurrence database used for this research reflects countless hours of field research and data organization by stakeholders who provided their datasets. In particular, we owe a debt of gratitude to Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Natural Heritage Program, New Mexico Environment Department, Utah Natural Heritage Program, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, and Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit for sharing their datasets. Previous versions of this manuscript benefitted from insightful comments by Dan Dauwalter of Trout Unlimited, Jane Fencl of the University of Washington, the Missouri Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit Aquatic Sciences Journal Club, Colleen Caldwell of New Mexico State University, Janine Powell of the U.S. Geological Survey, three anonymous reviewers, and the journal editors. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or other sponsoring or participating agencies. The Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the University of Missouri, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Wildlife Management Institute.

Supplementary material

11160_2017_9479_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Whitney
    • 1
    • 6
  • Joanna B. Whittier
    • 2
  • Craig P. Paukert
    • 3
  • Julian D. Olden
    • 4
  • Angela L. Strecker
    • 5
  1. 1.Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental Science and ManagementPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  6. 6.Department of BiologyPittsburg State UniversityPittsburgUSA

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