The Trouble with Brook Trout, Part II

The road to restoring populations of Eastern brook trout is ongoing, and it is a complex project. Across the species’ range, it faces a host of threats: 


  1. Increased Water Temperatures—Historically, the cutting of trees for lumber or to clear land for agriculture deprived streams of cooling shade, and the resulting warm water caused brook trout to retreat to higher elevations. Climate change poses serious threats, especially to those waters that are currently just cool enough for brook trout.
  2. Exotic Species—The introduction of brown and rainbow trout in Eastern waters has been disastrous for some brook trout populations, especially in the South.
  3. Mossback
    A native brook trout in full spawning regalia.
    Photos by Brett Colvin

  4. Acid Mine Drainage or Precipitation—From the acid-rain troubled lakes and ponds of the Adirondacks to Mid-Atlantic streams polluted with mine drainage, acidic water threatens brook trout. Adding limestone sand has reclaimed some waters from which the species has been extirpated.
  5. Habitat Fragmentation—Roads, culverts, dams and other man-made obstructions cut off headwater streams from the rest of the watershed, which isolates populations. This leads to a lack of genetic diversity that makes the trout less able to deal with changes in habitat. Fragmented watersheds also mean that trout can’t migrate to new habitat when their own becomes unsuitable, such as when downstream fish migrate to headwater streams in summer.
  6. Siltation—Intense logging, road building, and poor agricultural practices cause siltation that reduces the fertility of insect life, covers vital spawning habitat, reduces water clarity. It’s imperative that all of us who live in the East do what we can to protect vital brook-trout habitat.

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