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Keywords:

  • brown trout;
  • exotic species;
  • growth;
  • survival;
  • density dependence;
  • temperature

Abstract –  In the Logan River, UT, USA, exotic brown trout demonstrate a strong allopatric distribution and occur at high densities at low-elevation sites and in tributaries, and in low densities at native trout dominated, high-elevation sites. Summer temperatures and discharge do not appear limiting for growth; adult growth rates were high overall and were greatest when fish were held experimentally at high elevation where they do not occur naturally. Brown trout are superior competitors; competition for space or food was stronger with their own con-specifics than with other species. Evidence of density dependence was not observed at the juvenile life stage; no consistent relationships were detected between brown trout density and age-1 condition or lagged, age-0 weight (g). In contrast, adult brown trout demonstrated density-dependent effects on condition and growth when reared experimentally. Field estimates of adult growth rates (g·day−1), although variable, declined subtly with increasing density, and annual survival was significantly greater in the mainstem sites (mean = 52%) relative to a high-density tributary site (mean = 22%). Annual predicted age-0 brown trout growth potential was four-times greater at the lowermost site, compared with the highest elevation site, although fish lost weight over winter months at all sites. While adult density dependence may influence population abundance at some sites, extreme spring–winter conditions may ultimately limit the upper elevational extent of brown trout in this system. With changing climatic conditions and the potential for habitat degradation in the future, these results have important implications for native fish conservation.