A 50 year Battle continues, so we won’t Say Goodbye to Brook Trout...
Massachusetts rivers and streams that flood regularly in the spring, are considered to be among the rarest and most threatened natural communities. Massachusetts rivers and streams are flowing bodies of water that range in size from small intermittent streams to large rivers such as the Connecticut and Merrimack. Most of the wild native brook trout are now found in small streams, having been lost from most lakes, ponds, and rivers. Brook trout have been largely wiped out from most rivers due to a combination of global warming, overfishing, acid rain, and climate impacts. Historically, saving the brook trout has been a low priority for most people due to the perception of brook trout having a lower value to fishermen relative to introduced salmon.
Gone are the days when Opie and his dad could whistle down to the local river and bring home a fish dinner to Aunt Bea. Brook trout are not only native to the Eastern United States, but also Eastern Canada, and the upper Midwest. Brook trout have also been established in the Rocky Mountains, and were the predominant species in many (if not most) small western trout streams. Brook trout found a home in northeastern Ohio some 10,000 years ago when Lake Erie was forming now many trout species are nearly extinct in the Midwest.
By the mid-1800s, brook trout could be found in only two northeastern Ohio stream systems. It has often been said that, for humans, brook trout are like a “canary in a coal mine”. Red Brook is a small, spring fed, 4.5-mile-long trout stream that empties into Buttermilk Bay, not far from the Cape Cod Canal. Between 2006 and 2009, four dams were removed from Red Brook in the Lyman Reserve by the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration. Herring, eels and brook trout now swim an unobstructed Red Brook for the first time in 150 years.
Yet the celebration was premature every year developers, opportunists, and polluters seek to threaten the Brook Trout population and now they have the changing eco system to deal with as well. In 2016 a 15 year study positively connected the warming climate to the decline of the Eastern brook trout. Red Brook is among just a few streams affected, located south of Maine it holds an important population of “salters” — brook trout that move back and forth between fresh and saltwater that climate change threatens. completed in 2016 “Changes in Seasonal Climate Outpace Compensatory Density-Dependence in Eastern Brook Trout,” was a collaboration by evolutionary ecologist Ron Bassar, of Oxford University; Keith Nislow, project leader with the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station; and conservation geneticist Andrew Whiteley, also at the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass.
The paper detailed a 15-year study conducted in Whately a town in Franklin County near Springfield MA., on a roughly one-mile section of the West Brook and three of its small tributaries. Findings from the research project predict that the trout population will likely disappear from these streams within the next 15 years, if warming trends proceed as projected.” (Fran Ryan The Recorder] Unfortunately in 2022 wild trout in Massachusetts are STILL at risk from warming water temperatures, changes in stream flow, and disruptive human activities. warmer water temperatures and lower summer water levels -- both driven by climate change -- have degraded stream habitat and likely caused declines of ALL New England Species of trout.
Examples of what can be done to save these endangered species include: “restoring aquatic connectivity by removing small dams and replacing undersized culverts;A culvert is a structure that channels water past an obstacle or to channel a subterranean waterway. Mitigating acid mine drainage to improve water quality; executing strategies that eliminate competition from non-native species; and planting native trees.”