Reservoir Fish Habitats: A Toolkit for Coping with Climate Change

The Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership is pleased to announce a new chapter added to our BMP manual. Reservoir Fish Habitats: A Toolkit for Coping with Climate Change is available for download. Climate change is the defining environmental problem for our generation. The effects of climate change are increasingly evident and anticipated to profoundly affect our ability to conserve fish habitats and fish assemblages as we know them. Preparing to cope with the effects of climate change is developing as the central concern of aquatic resources conservation and management. Reservoirs are important structures for coping with projected shifts in water supply, but they also provide refuge for riverine fishes and retain distinct fish assemblages that support diverse fisheries. The effects of climate change on reservoirs are unique among aquatic systems because reservoirs have distinctive habitat characteristics due to their terrestrial origin and strong linkage to catchments. We review (1) the projected effects of rising temperature and shifting precipitation on reservoir fish habitats, and (2) adaptation strategies to cope with the anticipated effects. Climate warming impacts to reservoirs include higher water temperatures and shifts in hydrology that can result in reduced water levels in summer and fall, altered water residence cycles, disconnection from upstream riverine habitats and backwaters, increased stratification, eutrophication, anoxia, and a general shift in biotic assemblages including plants, invertebrates, and fishes. We suggest that what is needed to cope with these changes is a new perspective focusing on maintaining ecosystem functionality rather than on retaining a particular species composition. To that end, we offer a toolkit organized into planning, monitoring, and managing compartments, and equipped with 22 adaptation tools. The coping strategies we identify are broad and general and represent a starting line applicable for developing creative alternatives relevant to local conditions.