Climate change will ultimately affect the supply and quality of freshwater lakes and rivers throughout the world. This study examines the potential impacts of climate change on freshwater fish distributions in Canada. Climate normals data (means from 1961 to 1990) from Environment Canada were used to map current climate found throughout the tertiary watersheds of Canada. Logistic regressions based on these climate data were used to develop predictive presence-absence equations for (a) common commercially and recreationally important species and (b) an Arctic freshwater species and a freshwater fish species of conservation significance listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC). The Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis Global Coupled Model 2(IS92a) provided forecasts of Canada's climate in 2020 and 2050. The data from this scenario and the logistic regressions provided a ready framework for predicting the potential distributions of the fishes. Physical and ecological barriers would have to be overcome for the distribution of these species to actually change in response to climate change. Generally, coldwater species may be extirpated from much of their present range while cool and warm-water species may expand northward. Species that are limited to the most southern regions of the country may expand northwards. A conceptual framework for assessing potential climate change impacts on fishes and the variety of management strategies required to deal with these impacts are discussed. Our forecasts demonstrate the need for climate change assessments in species at risk as well as for common species.
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