Predicting climate change effects on appalachian trout: Combining GIS and individual-based modeling

M. E. Clark, K. A. Rose, D. A. Levine, W. W. Hargrove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


We coupled an individual-based model of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) with a geographic information system (GIS) database to predict climate change effects on southern Appalachian stream populations. The model tracked individuals of both species through the daily processes of spawning, growth, feeding, mortality, and movement for 30 years in a stream reach consisting of connected pools, runs, and riffles. The southern Appalachian Plateau was divided into 101 watershed elevation band zones. Model simulations were performed for a representative stream reach of each stream order in each zone. Trout abundance was estimated by multiplying predicted trout densities (measured in number of trout per meter) by the total length of streams of each order in each watershed elevation zone. Three climate change scenarios were analyzed: Temperature only (1.5-2.5°C warmer stream temperatures); temperature and flow (warmer stream temperatures and lower baseline flows with threefold higher peak flows); and temperature, flow, and mortality episodes (warmer stream temperatures, changed flows, and flow-related scouring of redds). Increased temperature alone resulted in increased abundances of brook and rainbow trout. The temperature-and-flow scenario resulted in a complex mosaic of positive and negative changes in abundances in zones, but little change in total abundance. Addition of episodic mortality in the form of floods that scour redds and kill eggs and fry caused a net loss of rainbow trout. Predicted changes in habitat (based on simulation results and temperature alone) were, at best, weakly correlated with predicted changes in abundance. The coupling of individual-based models to GIS databases, in order to scale up environmental effects on individuals to regional population responses, offers a promising approach for regional assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-178
Number of pages18
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Brook and rainbow trout
  • Geographic information system (GIS)
  • Global climate change
  • Individual-based model
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss
  • Salvelinus fontinalis
  • Southern Appalachian streams
  • Temperature and flow gradients
  • Watershed elevation zones


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