Date of Award:

2012

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Watershed Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Dr. Phaedra Budy

Abstract

Brown trout (Salmo trutta), one of the world’s most successful introduced species, negatively impacts native aquatic communities through predation, competition, and ecosystemlevel effects. Thus, there is a need to understand factors controlling the distribution of exotic brown trout in river systems, in order to prioritize and develop conservation and management strategies. Within the context of invasion success, I investigated how the physical template of the Logan River influences the distribution of brown trout along a longitudinal gradient, and the potential for brown trout predation on the native mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi). The Logan River, Utah USA, is a high-elevation, mountain river exhibiting a wide range of physical habitat characteristics along the altitudinal (or elevational) gradient.

In chapter 1, I evaluated whether longitudinal trends in geomorphology contribute to higher potential mortality of brown trout fry at high elevations due to flood-caused streambed scour. High-elevation spawning gravels did not exhibit higher scour compared to low elevations, because brown trout locally chose low-scour areas for spawning. In chapter 2, I investigated the importance of gravel availability, versus other habitat factors, in controlling the spatial distribution of brown trout redd densities. Using a Bayesian hierarchical modeling approach, I demonstrated that anchor ice, distance from high-quality backwater habitat, and to a lesser-extent gravel availability, best explained redd densities. Finally, in chapter 3, I evaluated the potential predatory effects of exotic brown trout on native mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi). High rates of sculpin consumption contrasted to previously documented low rates of predation by native Bonneville cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarkii) and depended on abiotic factors controlling the distribution of both species.

Collectively, my research suggests that both abiotic factors and source-population dynamics structure brown trout distributions on the Logan River, and ultimately the potential impacts of this invasive fish. Specifically, the distribution of anchor ice and distance from dam backwaters are important drivers of the brown trout distribution, which may extend to other systems. These drivers, including how they may be influenced by future climate change and habitat alteration, should be considered in management efforts to control brown trout expansion and to limit the predatory impacts of brown trout.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on September 20, 2012.

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