This study characterized the thermal regime in a number of Colorado and New Mexico streams that contain populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis) and had no previous record of continual temperature records. When compared to Colorado’s water temperature criteria (Cold Tier 1), a portion of these populations appeared to be at risk from elevated stream temperatures, as indicated by exceedance of both acute (17–22 percent) and chronic (2–9 percent) water quality metrics. Summer water temperature profiles recorded at sites within current Rio Grande cutthroat trout habitat indicated that although the majority of currently occupied conservation streams have temperatures that fall well below these biologically based acute and chronic thermal thresholds, several sites may be at or approaching water temperatures considered stressful to cutthroat trout. Further, water temperatures should be considered in decisions regarding the current and future thermal suitability of potential Rio Grande cutthroat trout restoration sites. Additionally, baseflow discharge sampling indicated that a majority of the sampled stream segments containing Rio Grande cutthroat trout have flows less than 1.0 cubic feet per second (cfs) in both 2010 (74 percent) and 2011 (77 percent). The relative drought sensitivity of these low baseflow streams containing Rio Grande cutthroat trout could be further evaluated to assess their probable sustainability under possible future drought conditions.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water temperature and baseflow discharge of streams throughout the range of Rio Grande cutthroat trout in Colorado and New Mexico—2010 and 2011
U.S. Geological Survey
Cooperative Research Units
Report: vi, 19 p.; Appendix A: Monitoring Site Data for Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Populations Part 1 and Part 2 PDFs