Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Influence of water temperature and beaver ponds on Lahontan cutthroat trout in a high-desert stream, southeastern Oregon

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  • The distribution of Lahontan cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi was assessed in a high-desert stream in southeastern Oregon where beaver Castor canadensis are abundant. Longitudinal patterns of beaver ponds, habitat, temperature, and Lahontan cutthroat trout age group distribution were identified throughout Willow Creek. Three distinct stream segments were classified based on geomorphological characteristics. Four beaver-pond and four free-flowing sample sections were randomly located in each of the three stream segments. Beavers substantially altered the physical habitat of Willow Creek increasing the depth and width of available habitat. In contrast, there was no measurable effect on water temperature. The total number of Lahontan cutthroat trout per meter was significantly higher in beaver ponds than free-flowing sections. Although density (fish/m²) showed no statistically significant (P<0.05) increase, values in beaver ponds were two-fold those of free-flowing sections. Age-1 and young-of-the-year trout were absent or in very low numbers in lower Willow Creek because of elevated temperatures, but high numbers of age-2 and 3 (adults) Lahontan cutthroat trout were found in beaver ponds where water temperatures reached lethal levels (>24°C). Apparently survival is greater in beaver ponds than free-flowing sections as temperatures approach lethal limits.
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