Future alterations in land cover and climate are likely to cause substantial changes in the ranges of fish species. Predictive distribution models are an important tool for assessing the probability that these changes will cause increases or decreases in or the extirpation of species. Classification tree models that predict the probability of game fish presence were applied to the streams of the Muskegon River watershed, Michigan. The models were used to study three potential future scenarios: (1) land cover change only, (2) land cover change and a 3°C increase in air temperature by 2100, and (3) land cover change and a 5°C increase in air temperature by 2100. The analysis indicated that the expected change in air temperature and subsequent change in water temperatures would result in the decline of coldwater fish in the Muskegon watershed by the end of the 21st century while cool- and warmwater species would significantly increase their ranges. The greatest decline detected was a 90% reduction in the probability that brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis would occur in Bigelow Creek. The greatest increase was a 276% increase in the probability that northern pike Esox lucius would occur in the Middle Branch River. Changes in land cover are expected to cause large changes in a few fish species, such as walleye Sander vitreus and Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, but not to drive major changes in species composition. Managers can alter stream environmental conditions to maximize the probability that species will reside in particular stream reaches through application of the classification tree models. Such models represent a good way to predict future changes, as they give quantitative estimates of the n-dimensional niches for particular species.
Additional publication details
Predicting future changes in Muskegon River Watershed game fish distributions under future land cover alteration and climate change scenarios