Document Type


Publication Date



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Forestry and Natural Resources


Spatial population models predict strong density-dependence and relatively stable population dynamics near the core of a species' distribution with increasing variance and importance of density-independent processes operating towards the population periphery. Using a 10-year data set and an information-theoretic approach, we tested a series of candidate models considering density-dependent and density-independent controls on brook trout population dynamics across a core-periphery distribution gradient within a central Appalachian watershed. We sampled seven sub-populations with study sites ranging in drainage area from 1.3–60 km2and long-term average densities ranging from 0.335–0.006 trout/m. Modeled response variables included per capita population growth rate of young-of-the-year, adult, and total brook trout. We also quantified a stock-recruitment relationship for the headwater population and coefficients of variability in mean trout density for all sub-populations over time. Density-dependent regulation was prevalent throughout the study area regardless of stream size. However, density-independent temperature models carried substantial weight and likely reflect the effect of year-to-year variability in water temperature on trout dispersal between cold tributaries and warm main stems. Estimated adult carrying capacities decreased exponentially with increasing stream size from 0.24 trout/m in headwaters to 0.005 trout/m in the main stem. Finally, temporal variance in brook trout population size was lowest in the high-density headwater population, tended to peak in mid-sized streams and declined slightly in the largest streams with the lowest densities. Our results provide support for the hypothesis that local density-dependent processes have a strong control on brook trout dynamics across the entire distribution gradient. However, the mechanisms of regulation likely shift from competition for limited food and space in headwater streams to competition for thermal refugia in larger main stems. It also is likely that source-sink dynamics and dispersal from small headwater habitats may partially influence brook trout population dynamics in the main stem.

Source Citation

Huntsman BM, Petty JT (2014) Density-Dependent Regulation of Brook Trout Population Dynamics along a Core-Periphery Distribution Gradient in a Central Appalachian Watershed. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91673.


© 2014 Huntsman, Petty. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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