NCEAS Project 12296

Assessing sensitivity of salmon species to river modifications and climate change

  • Christine Petersen

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Postdoctoral Fellow15th April 2008—30th September 2010Participant List  

The salmonids are particularly predisposed to local adaptation to habitat and climate conditions due to their trait of returning to the natal stream for adult-stage reproduction. With ranges from California to Alaska, salmon species in the NE Pacific encompass a fairly diverse set of strategies for meeting the variety of challenges to survival posed during the stream and ocean phases of life history. Both climate and anthropogenic changes to riverine and ocean habitat are likely to influence this risk landscape. Optimal growth rates, timing of emergence, smoltification, return from the ocean and spawning, and other behaviors could be altered by warming stream temperatures, changes in ocean upwelling patterns, installation of river obstructions, or transformation of rivers into lake environments by dams. In addition, simple changes in environmental variables may drive complex population effects due to interspecies competition, predation, and disease dynamics. We intend to use wide array of available hydrological drainage maps, abundance time-series and other datasets to consider several alternative future scenarios. A state-of-the-art climate model developed at the University of Washington will be used to inform both fine and coarse-scale hydrological landscape models constructed at several drainages between Alaska and California by a postdoctoral collaborator, also at NCEAS. The objective of my work will be to explore population dynamics of 2-4 different salmon species in response to the projected habitat change scenarios. With the larger working group, we hope to develop an innovative approach to incorporating understanding of likely selective or plastic responses to climate change. We hope to estimate the likelihood of populations reaching a quasi- extinction threshold resulting in range shifts of the different species, as well as to identify management strategies helping to enhance the resilience of populations to likely habitat changes.