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The Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus) was once distributed throughout the colder waters of the Colorado River basin above the Grand Canyon. About 8 percent of its historical range is occupied by unhybridized or ecologically significant populations. It has been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act and is accorded special status by several state and federal agencies. Habitat alteration and nonnative trout invasions led to the extirpation of many populations and impede restoration. Habitat fragmentation exacerbated by climate change is an emerging threat. A strategic, systematic approach to future conservation is likely to be the most successful.
Invasion by nonnative brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) often results in replacement of cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) in the inland western United States, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. We conducted a four-year removal experiment to test for population-level mechanisms (i.e., changes in recruitment, survival, emigration, and immigration) promoting invasion success of brook trout and causing decline of native Colorado River cutthroat trout (O. c. pleuriticus). We chose 700–1200 m segments of four small mountain streams where brook trout had recently invaded cutthroat trout populations, two each at mid elevation (2500–2700 m) and high elevation (3150–3250 m), and annually removed...