Brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis is the native salmonid species of streams in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The present distribution of this species, once widespread from headwaters to lower reaches of large streams, is restricted to mostly headwater areas. Changes in the distribution of native brook trout in the presence of' nonnative rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss have been documented in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When rainbow trout were first found in a tributary (Rock Creek) in the park in 1979, a study was begun to assess changes through time in distribution and abundance of rainbow trout in Rock Creek and to compare the brook trout and rainbow trout associations in Rock Creek with associations found in other park streams. Abundance of brook trout was low in the downstream sections of Rock Creek in 1979a??1993. Brook trout abundance was highest in the steep-gradient, pool-dominated headwater section which was only 2 km from the confluence of Rock Creek and Cosby Creek. Rainbow trout were present in low densities in Rock Creek during the same period. Although rainbow trout were most abundant in the lower stream sections and never found in the headwater section, adult and age-0 rainbow trout were found in the middle section in 1988. Rainbow trout were absent in the middle section in 1991, but one large adult rainbow trout was present in the section in 1992 and 1993. Floods, freshets, and periods of low stream discharge appeared to play an important role in the distribution and population structure of rainbow trout in Rock Creek. The lower portion of Rock Creek was poor trout habitat because the sections were dominated by cobblea??rubble substrate and shallow riffle areas. Stream habitat appeared to be better suited for brook trout than for rainbow trout in the steep-gradient upstream sections which were dominated by boulder-cobble substrate and deep pools. The results of this study suggest that encroachment by rainbow trout can exhibit considerable ebb and flow in steep-gradient tributaries in the park, and they suggest substantial evolutionary adaptation by brook trout to the hydrological conditions in the Rock Creek drainage.
Additional publication details
Ebb and flow of encroachment by nonnative rainbow trout in a small stream in the southern Appalachian Mountains