Fish habitat restoration to promote adaptation: resilience of sport sh in lakes of the Upper Midwest
September 2019 - August 2023
- USGS Climate Adaptation Science Center
Climate change is influencing fish communities in lakes throughout the upper Midwest. Popular sport fish such as walleye are declining in many lakes, while warmwater species such as largemouth bass are increasing. However, not all lakes or fish species respond in the same way, even when they experience the same conditions. In some cases, local management actions such as restoration or protection of lake habitat can slow down or mitigate the negative effects of climate change on economically and ecologically important fish species. This project aims to understand how multiple fish species (walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and cisco) with different temperature preferences respond to climate change, and how their responses are affected by lake habitat conditions. Researchers will develop models to predict responses to climate change in tens of thousands of lakes in the upper Midwest. By identifying habitat factors that make certain lakes more or less vulnerable to climate change, this research will enable lake and watershed managers to prioritize management actions aimed at reducing the negative effects of climate change. At the same time, lakes where certain species are unlikely to exist under future conditions will also be identified, which will enable managers and citizens to prepare for shifts in fish community composition. Project results will be communicated to managers and the public using online data visualization and communication tools to demonstrate how lakes in the Midwest are affected by climate change and identify lakes where local actions may be effective in preserving cold- and coolwater fish species as the climate warms. The project is a collaboration of researchers across multiple agencies and includes the University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, USGS, Wisconsin DNR, Minnesota DNR, Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership, and Michigan DNR.