Global climate change threatens to affect negatively the structure, function, and diversity of aquatic ecosystems worldwide. In alpine systems, the thermal tolerances of stream invertebrates can be assessed to understand better the potential effects of rising ambient temperatures and continued loss of glaciers and snowpack on alpine stream ecosystems. We measured the critical thermal maximum (CTM) and lethal temperature maximum (LTM) of the meltwater stonefly (Lednia tumana), a species limited to glacial and snowmelt-driven alpine streams in the Waterton–Glacier International Peace Park area and a candidate for listing under the US Endangered Species Act. We collected L. tumana nymphs from Lunch Creek in Glacier National Park, Montana (USA) and transported them to a laboratory at the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station, Polson, Montana. We placed nymphs in a controlled water bath at 1 of 2 acclimation temperatures, 8.5 and 15°C. We increased water temperature at a constant rate of 0.3°C/min. We calculated the average CTM and LTM (± SD) for each acclimation temperature and compared them with Student's t-tests. Predicted chronic temperature maxima were determined using the ⅓ rule. Mean LTMs were 32.3 ± 0.28°C and 31.05 ± 0.78°C in the 8.5 and 15°C acclimation treatments, respectively. CTM and LTM metrics were lower in the 15 than in the 8.5°C acclimation treatment, but these differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.05). The predicted chronic temperature maxima were 20.6 and 20.2°C for the 8.5 and 15°C acclimation treatments, respectively. More research is needed on the effects of chronic exposures to rising stream temperatures, but our results can be used to assess the potential effects of warming water temperatures on L. tumana and other aquatic macroinvertebrates in alpine ecosystems.
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