Sensitivity of endemic Snake River cutthroat trout to acidity and elevated aluminum

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 

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Abstract

Acidic episodes in waters of the western USA, do not last as long and are not as intense as those in the eastern USA, but we found that the native western cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarki is sensitive to even brief reductions in pH. In laboratory studies, fish were exposed to acidity (pH 4.5–6.5) alone or in the presence of aluminum during the first 7 d of the freshly fertilized egg, eyed embryo, alevin, or swim-up larva stages of development. Following exposure to acidity and aluminum, eggs and fish were held under control water quality conditions to 40 d posthatch to assess effects of the exposure on subsequent development. Reductions in pH from 6.5 to 6.0 in low-calcium water (1.4 mg/L) did not affect survival, but reduced growth offish in the early life stages. The presence of as little as 50 μg A1/L at low pH further decreased growth and reduced survival. The most sensitive indicators of stress were loss of ions (determined from whole-body sampling) and reduced swimming in alevins, reduction in the ratio of RNA:DNA, feeding inhibition, and pathology of gill tissue in swim-up larvae. A pH of 6.0 and 50 μg Al/L reduced whole-body sodium by 72% and potassium by 50% in alevins. Reductions in the RNA: DNA ratio, correlated with lower growth rates, were observed in swim-up larvae exposed to pH 5.5 and 50 μg Al/L. Exposure to 50 μg Al/L at pH 6.0 reduced swimming activity of alevins by 68% and feeding rates of swim-up larvae by 67%. In the presence of 50 μg A1/L, pathological changes in gill tissue were observed in swim-up larvae exposed to pH 6.0 or less. Although acidification is not widespread in the western USA, cutthroat trout have a narrow margin of safety between conditions that currently exist and those at which pH and aluminum reduce survival and growth.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sensitivity of endemic Snake River cutthroat trout to acidity and elevated aluminum
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1577/1548-8659(1989)118<0630:SOESRC>2.3.CO;2
Volume 118
Issue 6
Year Published 1989
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page 630
Last page 643
Country United States