• brown trout;
  • climate change;
  • habitat management;
  • riparian shade;
  • water temperature


Suitable thermal conditions in streams are necessary for fish and predictions of future climate changes infer that water temperatures may regularly exceed tolerable ranges for key species. Riparian woodland is considered as a possible management tool for moderating future thermal conditions in streams for the benefit of fish communities. The spatial and temporal variation of stream water temperature was therefore investigated over 3 years in lowland rivers in the New Forest (southern England) to establish the suitability of the thermal regime for fish in relation to riparian shade in a warm water system. Riparian shade was found to have a marked influence on stream water temperature, particularly in terms of moderating diel temperature variation and limiting the number of days per year that maximum temperatures exceeded published thermal thresholds for brown trout. Expansion of riparian woodland offers potential to prevent water temperature exceeding incipient lethal limits for brown trout and other fish species. A relatively low level of shade (20–40%) was found to be effective in keeping summer temperatures below the incipient lethal limit for brown trout, but ca. 80% shade generally prevented water temperatures exceeding the range reported for optimum growth of brown trout. Higher levels of shade are likely to be necessary to protect temperature-sensitive species from climate warming. © Crown copyright 2010.