Life and death in a dynamic environment: Invasive trout, floods, and intraspecific drivers of translocated populations

Ecological Applications
By: , and 



Understanding the relative strengths of intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulating populations is a long-standing focus of ecology and critical to advancing conservation programs for imperiled species. Conservation could benefit from an increased understanding of factors influencing vital rates (somatic growth, recruitment, survival) in small, translocated populations, which is lacking owing to difficulties in long-term monitoring of rare species. Translocations, here defined as the transfer of wild-captured individuals from source populations to new habitats, are widely used for species conservation, but outcomes are often minimally monitored, and translocations that are monitored often fail. To improve our understanding of how translocated populations respond to environmental variation, we developed and tested hypotheses related to intrinsic (density dependent) and extrinsic (introduced rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, stream flow and temperature regime) causes of vital rate variation in endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) populations translocated to Colorado River tributaries in the Grand Canyon (GC), USA. Using biannual recapture data from translocated populations over 10 years, we tested hypotheses related to seasonal somatic growth, and recruitment and population growth rates with linear mixed-effects models and temporal symmetry mark–recapture models. We combined data from recaptures and resights of dispersed fish (both physical captures and continuously recorded antenna detections) from throughout GC to test survival hypotheses, while accounting for site fidelity, using joint live-recapture/live-resight models. While recruitment only occurred in one site, which also drove population growth (relative to survival), evidence supported hypotheses related to density dependence in growth, survival, and recruitment, and somatic growth and recruitment were further limited by introduced trout. Mixed-effects models explained between 67% and 86% of the variation in somatic growth, which showed increased growth rates with greater flood-pulse frequency during monsoon season. Monthly survival was 0.56–0.99 and 0.80–0.99 in the two populations, with lower survival during periods of higher intraspecific abundance and low flood frequency. Our results suggest translocations can contribute toward the recovery of large-river fishes, but continued suppression of invasive fishes to enhance recruitment may be required to ensure population resilience. Furthermore, we demonstrate the importance of flooding to population demographics in food-depauperate, dynamic, invaded systems.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Life and death in a dynamic environment: Invasive trout, floods, and intraspecific drivers of translocated populations
Series title Ecological Applications
DOI 10.1002/eap.2635
Volume 32
Issue 6
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description e2635, 28 p.
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Grand Canyon National Park
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details