Accounts of species' range shifts in response to climate change are rapidly accumulating. These range shifts are often attributed to species tracking their thermal niches as temperatures in their native ranges increase. Our objective was to estimate the degree to which shifts in water temperature driven by climate change may increase the exposure of West Virginia's native freshwater fishes to mountaintop-removal surface coal mining. We projected midcentury shifts in habitat suitability for 9 non-game West Virginian fishes via maximum entropy species distribution modeling, using a combination of physical habitat, historical climate conditions, and future climate data. Modeling projections for a high-emissions scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5) predict that habitat suitability will increase in high-elevation streams near mountaintop mining sites for 8 of 9 species, with increases in habitat suitability varying from 46% to 418%. We conclude that many West Virginian fishes will be at risk of increased exposure to mountaintop mining if climate change continues at a rapid pace.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3