Habitat fragmentation, which affects many native salmonid species, is one of the major factors contributing to the declines in distribution and abundance of Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus. Increasingly, managers are considering options to maintain and enhance the persistence of isolated local populations through active management strategies. Understanding the ecological consequences of such actions is a necessary step in conservation planning. We used an individual-based model to evaluate the consequences of an ongoing management program aimed at mitigating the anthropogenic fragmentation of the lower Clark Fork River in Montana. Under this program juvenile Bull Trout are trapped and transported from small, headwater source populations to Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, for rearing, and adults are subsequently recaptured in their upstream migration and returned to the natal population for spawning. We examined one of these populations and integrated empirical estimates of demographic parameters to simulate different management scenarios where moderate (n = 4) and high (n = 8) numbers of age-2, age-3, or age-4 Bull Trout were removed for transport with variable return rates under both demographic stochasticity and environmental perturbations. Our results indicated the risks from removal with no returns increased substantially when removal totals and age of Bull Trout removed from the simulated population increased. Specifically, removing eight age-3 or age-4 individuals resulted in 26% and 62% reductions in average adult population size, respectively, across simulations. We found the risks of transport were not likely alleviated with low (3%) or moderate (6%) return rates, and there were considerable risks of declines for the source population even when return rates were extremely high (>12%). Our simulations indicated little risk of declines for the source population with removals of age-2 Bull Trout, and any risks were alleviated with low return rates. However, we found higher return rates were particularly beneficial in the presence of large, density-independent perturbations.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Consequences of actively managing a small Bull Trout population in a fragmented landscape|
|Series title||Transactions of the American Fisheries Society|
|Publisher||Taylor & Francis|
|Contributing office(s)||Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Clark Fork River, Cooper Gulch|