Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Inland Fisheries

Craig Paukert
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 6/14/2023

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Aquatic biota is particularly vulnerable to climate change and its associated effects, but these effects, both distributional and physiological, will differ by species and region. Approximately 50 percent of available cold and cool water fish habitats are expected to disappear with projected doubling of atmospheric CO2 (Eaton and Scheller 1996; Mohseni et al. 2003), while warm water fish habitat is expected increase by 31 percent (Mohseni et al. 2003). For example, cold water trout in the Mountain West of the U.S. may lose substantial habitat due to increasing water temperature and altered flows (Wenger et al. 2011). Increasing water temperatures and altered flows have also been linked to increased disease in brown trout in Switzerland (Hari et al. 2006). Similarly, Lassalle and Rochard (2009) projected species-specific distribution shifts across North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East under 21st century climate predictions. Likewise, in Wisconsin, a 3°C increase in air temperature is estimated to cause a loss of approximately 343,034km of cold and cool water fish habitats (Lyons et al. 2010).

Climate change may also be linked to physiological effects (Pörtner and Knust 2007; Pease and Paukert 2014), and behavioral or competitive effects (Poloczanska et al. 2008, Rahel and Olden 2008). For example, Pease and Paukert (2014) predicted that smallmouth bass in the U.S. Midwest could grow about 6% for every 1 °C increase in water temperature, but would need 27% more food to reach that level of growth. While these physiological effects may have as significant an effect on ecological systems as distributional changes, there is much less research on these projected impacts. Inland fish species, and their associated fisheries, are especially vulnerable to climate changes, both distributional and physiological, because they have limited habitat availability and a more direct link with terrestrial systems, land use patterns, and water use than marine systems.

Climate change impacts on these inland systems may be magnified as a result of climate impacts to terrestrial systems and human interventions. To date, little research has investigated climate change effects on inland fisheries at a global scale.

Project Products:


Lynch, A. J., and 10 coauthors. 2016. Climate change effects on North American inland fish populations, assemblages, and aquatic communities. Fisheries 346-361. DOI: 10.1080/03632415.2016.1186016.

Paukert, C. P., and 8 coauthors. 2016. Adapting fisheries management to a changing climate. Fisheries 41:374-384.

Whitney, J. E., and 8 coauthors. 2016. Mechanistic basis of climate change impacts on the physiology of North American inland fishes. Fisheries 41:332-345.

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