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“Wildlife in Hot Water” Report: Hot Spots Driving Away NH Brook Trout

A new National Wildlife Federation report says climate change is stressing the nation's waterways and causing hot spots in Granite State rivers, brooks and streams that are too warm for fish such as eastern brook trout to survive. Photo credit: Eric Orff
A new National Wildlife Federation report says climate change is stressing the nation's waterways and causing hot spots in Granite State rivers, brooks and streams that are too warm for fish such as eastern brook trout to survive. Photo credit: Eric Orff
August 24, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. - "Wildlife in Hot Water" is the headline of a new report on the nation's waterways and local experts say the warming of New Hampshire's rivers and streams is bad news for native brook trout.

Tom Ives is the New Hampshire council chair for Trout Unlimited and says Eastern Brook Trout thrive in cold water. He says the iconic native fish can't live in water warmer than 75 degrees, and the new National Wildlife Federation report documents hot spots in the past decade where New Hampshire waters have climbed to 80 degrees.

"It's all climate-change issues," says Ives. "Because the warming of the atmosphere is creating changes in the runs of fish, and their ability to survive different areas where traditionally they were able to live."

Ives says increasing development in the southern part of the state is also contributing to these hot spots, but the biggest factor is global warming emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The National Wildlife Federation report recommends adoption of President Obama's Clean Power Plan. The group says the plan contains flexible, achievable, science-based rules for reducing carbon emissions which they say represent real progress in protecting fish and wildlife from the worst impacts of climate change.

The report also says that headwater streams are seeing significant changes in water flows because of more rapid snowpack melts. Plymouth State University research assistant Rachelle Lyons says these headwaters are vital both as a source of drinking water for people and as habitat for fish and other wildlife.

"These streams are critical," says Lyons. "One, because they're the headwaters and if they are impaired that high up in the watershed, then the just carries down to the lower reaches. Also, we have found these are the places the trout go for thermal refuge."

Lyons says her project has been working with private landowners to help protect vulnerable streams from a variety of threats including increased development and resource extraction.

The report: Wildlife in Hot Water: Climate Change and America's Waterways calls for support of the EPA Clean Water Rule to protect at least 60 percent of America's streams and 20 million acres of wetlands nationwide.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH