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Forestry and Natural Resources Researchers Publish Journal Article

A team of researchers from the West Virginia University (WVU) Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design recently published a journal article that provides an assessment of thermal characteristics and climate change vulnerability for brook trout habitats in the upper Shavers Fork sub-watershed in West Virginia.

Photo by Andrew Watson.

The article, Can brook trout survive climate change in large rivers? If it rains, appears in volumes 207 and 208 of Science of the Total Environment and was published by Dr. Eric Merriam, Postdoctoral Researcher with the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources; Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez, Postdoctoral Researcher with the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources; Dr. Todd Petty, Professor of Aquatic Sciences in the Wildlife and Fisheries Resources program and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the College; and Dr. Nicolas Zegre, Associate Professor of Forest Resources Management.

“Most studies have focused on how increasing air temperatures will translate into a loss of thermally suitable brook trout habitat, without considering how changes in precipitation and streamflow might alter habitat vulnerability to climate change,” said Merriam.

“Climate models are projecting substantially higher stream flow levels in this region and also substantially higher temperatures,” Petty added.

“Our results suggest that, within this and similar systems, projected increases in precipitation and streamflow will largely offset the effects of increasing air temperatures” said Merriam.

“This combination results in some hope for cold water species. But it also raises the specter of more flooding and raises the question, “what if it doesn't rain?,” concluded Petty.

For more information about the article, contact lead author Dr. Eric Merriam at or (304) 293-4343.

The research highlighted in this story is based upon work that is partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 1458952.