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We present a hierarchical series of spatially decreasing and temporally increasing models to evaluate the uncertainty in the atmosphere – ocean global climate model (AOGCM) and the regional climate model (RCM) relative to the uncertainty in the somatic growth of the endangered pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus). For effects on fish populations of riverine ecosystems, climate output simulated by coarse-resolution AOGCMs and RCMs must be downscaled to basins to river hydrology to population response. One needs to transfer the information from these climate simulations down to the individual scale in a way that minimizes extrapolation and can account for spatio-temporal variability in the intervening stages. The goal is a framework to determine whether, given uncertainties in the climate models and the biological response, meaningful inference can still be made. The non-linear downscaling of climate information to the river scale requires that one realistically account for spatial and temporal variability across scale. Our downscaling procedure includes the use of fixed/calibrated hydrological flow and temperature models coupled with a stochastically parameterized sturgeon bioenergetics model. We show that, although there is a large amount of uncertainty associated with both the climate model output and the fish growth process, one can establish significant differences in fish growth distributions between models, and between future and current climates for a given model.

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