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Patterson: Troubled trout waters

12/13/2007

Memphis is hot again today. It's another record high. That makes three out of the last four days. Christmas is two weeks away. Global warming?

Same thing happened in 1952 — 55 years ago. Global warming?

I don't think the term existed then.

The all-time high for this day was 77 degrees in 1918. Global warming then?

The Industrial Age and burning fossil fuels which supposedly started this whole global warming mess was just getting started, so I don't think so.

The all-time low for the same day is 8 degrees — the year before, in 1917.

The Ice Age couldn't have ended that quickly.

All of the temperature information above is scientific facts. But in the big picture of whether global warming is real or not, they tell us absolutely nothing, nada, zip.

Yet global warming is real.

But you have to look at the scientific facts for more than just a few isolated days. That's what Trout Unlimited has done, and the coldwater conservation organization has some sobering news.

The group says trout and salmon populations are likely to decline 50 percent or more in regions around the country that will be most affected by global warming. Some trout species — like the bull trout in the high mountain west and the eastern brook trout of the Appalachians — could suffer 90 percent population losses.

The science is convincing.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than any time in the last 400,000 years, including a 30 percent increase since the late 1800s.

The buildup of this major greenhouse gas is at its fastest rate in history; global temperatures are up more than 1 degree during the last century.

That temperature, according to some scientists, will increase 2 to 10 degrees more in the next 100 years.

Glaciers are disappearing faster than ever before, along with the Arctic's permafrost, and the oceans are rising and warming.

It's not a pretty picture, but Trout Unlimited says now is the time to protect the best trout and salmon habitats available in preparation for future climate change. Native trout and salmon in pristine, well-managed places will be in the best possible shape to deal with climate change issues. The idea is to eliminate or greatly control anything that stresses native trout and salmon populations.

Below are TU's "Ten Steps to Protecting Trout and Salmon From Climate Change":

  1. Protect the diversity of remaining native trout and salmon populations.

  2. Restore the natural range of life history strategies in trout populations, including migratory and lake-dwelling forms.

  3. Protect springs, headwaters and other sources of cold water.

  4. Restore riparian habitats — the native trees and vegetation along streams and rivers — to provide shade.

  5. Restore woody debris and boulders in stream channels to create deeper pools.

  6. Remove in-stream barriers to fish movement, such as dams and poorly designed culverts.

  7. Restore in-stream flows that have been reduced by diversions for irrigation and other purposes.

  8. Minimize existing sources of stress, such as pollution, overgrazing, and roads along streams.

  9. Limit introductions of non-native fish and control existing populations.

  10. Monitor and evaluate habitats as they face climate change.

Global warming may be here, but there are many things we can do about it.

It's time to act. Now.