Forecasting effects of angler harvest and climate change on smallmouth bass abundance at the southern edge of their range

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Climate change will affect stream systems in numerous ways over the coming century. Globally, streams are expected to experience changes in temperature and flow regime. Previous work has indicated that these changes will likely affect fish distributions, but little work has been conducted examining population level effects of climate change on warmwater fish at the warmest portion of their range. We model several potential climate change-related stressors and the resulting effects on smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu populations in the Buffalo National River, Arkansas, USA, located near the southern extent of smallmouth bass range. Smallmouth bass are a popular recreational fish in the region and angler harvest likely contributes substantially to annual mortality. We created a simulation model parameterized with data collected from the Buffalo National River to evaluate the relative importance of climate stressors and angler harvest on smallmouth bass populations. Our simulations suggest that increases in springtime temperature and reductions in river discharge during the spawning period could increase recruitment, resulting in increases in adult abundance (8% higher). However, when increased flooding and drought probabilities are considered, our model indicates the Buffalo National River could experience large reductions in adult smallmouth bass abundance (≥50% decline) and increased probability of extinction compared to present levels. Simulations showed that harvest reduction could be a viable strategy to reduce the negative effects of climate change, but that even with complete closure of harvest, smallmouth bass population levels would still be well below present abundance (46% lower than present). Efforts to reduce flooding and drought effects related to climate change in the Buffalo National River could help offset the predicted reduction in the smallmouth bass population.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Forecasting effects of angler harvest and climate change on smallmouth bass abundance at the southern edge of their range
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0202737
Volume 13
Issue 8
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description e0202737; 18 p.
First page 1
Last page 18
Country United States
State Arkansas
Other Geospatial Buffalo National River
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