Starkly contrasting its prestigious title of state fish, Virginia's brook trout has become a poster fish, of sorts, for the global warming issues outlined in a new report by the National Wildlife Federation. Through "Swimming Upstream - Freshwater Fishing in a Warming World," the NWF paints a distressing picture of freshwater fish - already struggling against pollution, invasive species and habitat loss - plagued by warming inland waters linked to heat-trapping gasses from the carbon pollution of fossil fuels.
According to the report, nutrient pollution, sedimentation and habitat degradation have rendered some 55 percent of the nation's stream and river miles largely unlivable. Throw in droughts and the stream flow impacts of shorter winters with less snow and ice; and life's getting tough for cool and coldwater species. As the report notes, ongoing encroachment from warm water species further exacerbates the dilemma.
Based on a climate modeling study cited in the NWS report, Virginia brook trout - highly dependent on clear, cool, flowing waters - could vanish from state waters by mid-century, unless climate stressors diminish. Such ills span the nation with brookies throughout Appalachia, Midwestern Walleye, Southwestern Apache trout and salmon in the Pacific Northwest facing similar struggles.
The NWF report outlines a recuperative actions such as reining in carbon emissions, prioritizing clean energy sources and optimizing water infrastructure for aquatic ecosystem management. Such environmental ills don't disappear overnight, but time is clearly of the essence.
No one wants to see Virginia pick a new state fish.
View the NWF report at http://nwfaffiliates.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/138962.
CC image from Wikipedia