Native salmonid status was evaluated with an index quantifying distribution and abundance of cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) and grayling (Thymallus arcticus) in 41 watersheds comprising the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We assessed hydrologic integrity with a percentile-based index measuring cumulative effects of reservoirs, surface water withdrawals, and consumptive water use. Status of native salmonids was poor in 70% of the watersheds; exceptions occurred in a north-south core extending from the Upper Yellowstone southward through the national parks to Bear Lake. Hydrologic integrity was highest in headwater areas and lowest in lower-elevation watersheds. Status of native and nonnative salmonid populations currently existing in the ecosystem was positively correlated with hydrologic integrity (r = 0.58), indicating that the hydrologic index performed well on a watershed scale in quantifying suitability of stream environments for salmonids. However, native trout status and hydrologic integrity were similarly correlated (r = 0.63) only when watersheds receiving the lowest possible native salmonid index score were removed from analysis because these watersheds were uniformly distributed across hydrologic integrity. We infer that nonphysical factors such as interactions with introduced fish species have played an important role in the disappearance of native salmonids. The highest priority for conservation is preservation of core watersheds, where both hydrologic integrity and native trout status are high. Restoration opportunities exist in the Teton, Idaho Falls, Willow Creek, Central Bear, and Bear Lake watersheds, where viable cutthroat trout populations remain but are threatened by habitat degradation.
Van Kirk, Robert W. and Benjamin, Lyn
"Status and conservation of salmonids in relation to hydrologic integrity in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 61
, Article 12.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol61/iss3/12