As torrential rain descends on the Pacific Northwest, new research published online in the journal Global Change Biology provides a glimpse of how salmon rivers might fare in a future with larger floods.
The study, led by Wild Salmon Center science director Dr. Matthew Sloat, in collaboration with US Forest Service researchers, examines new climate patterns in southeast Alaska and the effects on flooding and habitat in salmon watersheds. Climate projections for southeast Alaska suggest that the region, home to the largest remaining temperate rain forest in the world, will be even warmer and wetter in the future.
Salmon are absolutely central to the culture, economy, and ecosystems of southeast Alaska. Salmon fishing in the region generates about $1 billion annually. Salmon populations and their habitat are generally in good condition throughout the region, but local communities are concerned about the potential effect of a changing climate on these populations.
Sloat and colleagues looked at the impact future floods could have on salmon spawning. Salmon spawn in streams in the fall and eggs develop through the winter, so increased winter flooding could potentially scour their eggs from the streambed and impact the next generation of fish.