Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Montana Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Montana Fishery Project

Predicting effects of climate change on native fishes in northern Great Plains streams

September 2011 - September 2015


Participating Agencies

  • Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Missouri River, central Montana

The fish assemblages of Great Plains streams may be perceived as “living on the edge,” because water quantity and water quality are often precariously close to ecological tolerance limits. At the same time, prairie streams provide critical “green lines” of habitat, in a sea of semi-arid prairies for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. For example, in Montana, prairie streams are a stronghold of native biodiversity that support 25 native fish species, 14 amphibian and reptile species, and more than 130 bird species. It appears, however, that changes in water quantity and quality associated with global climate change may substantially alter these networks of biodiversity. Our goal is to predict the effects of climate change on the hydrology and biota of northern Great Plains streams. We propose to link predicted changes in precipitation and air temperature to changes in water quantity and quality in streams, and in turn, fish assemblages.