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Mediating water temperature increases due to livestock and global change in high elevation meadow streams of the Golden Trout WildernessAuthor(s): Sebastien Nussle; Kathleen R. Matthews; Stephanie M. Carlson
Source: PLOS ONE
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionRising temperatures due to climate change are pushing the thermal limits of many species, but how climate warming interacts with other anthropogenic disturbances such as land use remains poorly understood. To understand the interactive effects of climate warming and livestock grazing on water temperature in three high elevation meadow streams in the Golden Trout Wilderness, California, we measured riparian vegetation and monitored water temperature in three meadow streams between 2008 and 2013, including two "resting" meadows and one meadow that is partially grazed. All three meadows have been subject to grazing by cattle and sheep since the 1800s and their streams are home to the imperiled California golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita). In 1991, a livestock exclosure was constructed in one of the meadows (Mulkey), leaving a portion of stream ungrazed to minimize the negative effects of cattle. In 2001, cattle were removed completely from two other meadows (Big Whitney and Ramshaw), which have been in a "resting" state since that time. Inside the livestock exclosure in Mulkey, we found that riverbank vegetation was both larger and denser than outside the exclosure where cattle were present, resulting in more shaded waters and cooler maximal temperatures inside the exclosure. In addition, between meadows comparisons showed that water temperatures were cooler in the ungrazed meadows compared to the grazed area in the partially grazed meadow. Finally, we found that predicted temperatures under different global warming scenarios were likely to be higher in presence of livestock grazing. Our results highlight that land use can interact with climate change to worsen the local thermal conditions for taxa on the edge and that protecting riparian vegetation is likely to increase the resiliency of these ecosystems to climate change.
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CitationNussle, Sebastien; Matthews, Kathleen R.; Carlson, Stephanie M. 2015. Mediating water temperature increases due to livestock and global change in high elevation meadow streams of the Golden Trout Wilderness. PLOS ONE, Vol. 10(11): e0142426.
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