Researchers are studying the feeding habits of Arctic charr to help predict how various fish populations could adapt to a warming climate.
Arctic charr are considered glacial relics, which once filled some of the deepest, coldest ponds of New England but today populate just a dozen lakes throughout Maine.
Nathan Furey, assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of New Hampshire, said the data collected on Arctic charr could reveal how climate change will impact lake ecosystems and which fish will best adapt their diet to survive.
“And so we kinda want to understand what kind of pressures are they under,” Furey explained. “And again how might they be adapted to be resilient to further warming waters.”
Furey pointed out the changing habits of Arctic charr living in the southernmost edge of their habitat range will offer clues to how populations further north may adapt to climate change in the future.
Researchers will conduct extensive tracking of Arctic charr to better understand their food webs.
Michael Kinnison, director of the Maine Center for Genetics and the Environment at the University of Maine, said a rare 20-year collection of Arctic charr genetic samples will also provide researchers even greater insight into how the fish can alter their diets in order to survive.
“So what this allows us to do is to also go back, and we’ll ask, over the last couple decades, what have we seen climate doing to these populations?” Kinnison outlined.
Kinnison added the research will inform biologists how the introduction of other species into Maine’s lakes could impact Arctic charr populations or if they will ultimately need to be moved into special reserves.
Researchers will also create lessons for grade-school students about how aquatic species may endure or perish from a warming world.
Arctic Charr Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife 2023
This story was written by Kathryn Carley, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.