The effects of a prolonged drought on southern Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in a coastal creek, Los Angeles County, California
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Long-term lifecycle monitoring of federally endangered southern steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Topanga Creek provides a unique opportunity to examine the health and abundance of a steelhead population before (2008-2011) and during (2012-2016) a prolonged drought. We found that the five-year drought resulted in a substantial and significant decline in available wetted habitat suitable for rearing and upstream migratory access for anadromous adults. The response of the steelhead population has been a significant reduction in anadromous spawning, distribution of rearing, and abundance of all life stages of anadromous and resident steelhead. After five years of drought a population that exceeded 325 individuals in 2008, now numbers fewer than 50 fish, and appears to be at extremely high risk of extirpation. Acknowledging the possibility of increased drought regionally and globally, the need to bolster southern steelhead resiliency to additional disturbance is paramount.