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Report: WYO Fish Can't Outswim Climate Change

PHOTO: A new report claims that warmer waters, earlier snowmelt and wildfires are challenges that fish canít really out-swim, espeically cutthroat trout - Wyoming's state fish. Credit: USFWS/flickr
PHOTO: A new report claims that warmer waters, earlier snowmelt and wildfires are challenges that fish canít really out-swim, espeically cutthroat trout - Wyoming's state fish. Credit: USFWS/flickr
September 5, 2013

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The climate is changing faster than fish can swim. That's the bottom line in a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) about how fish are affected when their habitat changes. NWF climate scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt explained that snowfall timing has changed in Wyoming and throughout the West. Fish, especially cutthroat trout, depend on the timing for food, reproduction and avoidance of predators.

"The amount of snowpack is declining and snowpack is melting earlier in the spring, melting one to four weeks earlier than it did just 50 years ago," Staudt said.

Most freshwater fish need cold waters to thrive. Staudt said warmer river and lake temperatures also invite competing species.

Fisheries biologist Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited, contributed to the report, which also offered solutions - several of which already are taking place in Wyoming.

"It may sound simple," he said. "One key is simply providing an adequate streamside buffer zone along creeks, where native trees and plants can protect stream banks and shade water."

The report connected healthy fish to healthy water, which is important for everyone, and described fisheries as an important economic driver for Wyoming. Recommendations included cutting carbon emissions to slow the pace of warmer temperatures, habitat improvements and water conservation.

The full Report, "Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World," is available at www.nwf.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY