Nicholas Strowbridge, Sara L Northrup, Madison L Earhart, Tessa S Blanchard, Patricia M Schulte. 2021. Acute measures of upper thermal and hypoxia tolerance are not reliable predictors of mortality following environmental challenges in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Conservation Physiology, 9(1)
Anthropogenic climate change threatens freshwater biodiversity and poses a challenge for fisheries management, as fish will increasingly be exposed to episodes of high temperature and low oxygen (hypoxia). Here, we examine the extent of variation in tolerance of acute exposure to these stressors within and among five strains of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) currently being used or under consideration for use in stocking programmes in British Columbia, Canada. We used incipient lethal oxygen saturation (ILOS) as an index of acute hypoxia tolerance, critical thermal maximum (CTmax) as an index of acute upper thermal tolerance and mortality following these two acute exposure trials to assess the relative resilience of individuals and strains to climate change-relevant stressors. We measured tolerance across two brood years and two life stages (fry and yearling), using a highly replicated design with hundreds of individuals per strain and life stage. There was substantial within-strain variation in CTmax and ILOS, but differences among strains, although statistically significant, were small. In contrast, there were large differences in post-trial mortality among strains, ranging from less than 2% mortality in the most resilient strain to 55% mortality in the least resilient. There was a statistically significant, but weak, correlation between CTmax and ILOS at both life stages for some strains, with thermally tolerant individuals tending to be hypoxia tolerant. These data indicate that alternative metrics of tolerance may result in different conclusions regarding resilience to climate change stressors, which has important implications for stocking and management decisions for fish conservation in a changing climate.