Life-history organization of cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake and its management implications Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cr56n337s

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  • Life-history organization of the cutthroat trout (Oncorhvnchus clarki) may be viewed at various levels, including species, subspecies, metapopulation, population, or individual. Each level varies in spatial scale and temporal persistence, and components at each level continually change with changes in environment. Cutthroat trout are widely distributed throughout the western USA, and during its evolution the species has organized into fourteen subspecies with many different life-history characteristics and habitat requirements. Within subspecies, organization is equally complex. For example, life-history traits, such as average size and age, migration strategy, and migration timing, vary among individual spawning populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhvnchus clarki bouvieri) in tributary streams of Yellowstone Lake. In this study specific life-history traits of adfluvial cutthroat trout spawners from Yellowstone Lake were examined in relation to habitat of tributary drainages and subbasins of the lake. Results suggest that stream drainages vary along gradients that can be described by mean aspect, mean elevation, and drainage size. Approximately two-thirds of the variation in the timing of annual cutthroat trout spawning migrations and average size of spawners can be described by third-degree polynomial regressions with mean aspect and elevation as predictor variables. Differences in average size and growth of cutthroat trout suggested metapopulation substructure related spatial heterogeneity of environmental characteristics of individual lake subbasins. Evidence that polytypic species can adapt to heterogenous environments, even within a single lake, has implications for the conservation, restoration, and management of many freshwater fishes. Understanding the consequences of human perturbations on life-history organization is critical for management of the cutthroat trout and other polytypic salmonid species. Loss of diversity at the any hierarchical level jeopardizes long-term ability of the species to adapt to changing environments, and it may also lead to increased fluctuations in abundance and yield and increase risk of extinction. Recent emphasis on a holistic view of natural systems and their management is associated with a growing appreciation of the role of human values in these systems. The recreational fishery for Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park is an example of the effects of management on a natural-cultural system. Although angler harvest has been drastically reduced or prohibited, the recreational value of Yellowstone cutthroat trout estimated by angling factors (e.g., landing rate or size) ranks above all other sport species in Yellowstone National Park. To maintain an indigenous fishery resource of this quality with hatchery propagation is not economically or technically feasible. Nonconsumptive uses of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout including fish-watching and intangible values, such as existence demand, provide additional support for protection of wild Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations. A management strategy that reduces resource extraction has provided a means to sustain a quality recreational fishery while enhancing values associated with the protection of natural systems.
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