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Climate change is the greatest threat facing wild Pacific salmon and the 130 species they support in our fresh water and marine ecosystems. It is well known that extreme weather events, warming temperatures, increased forest fires —conditions brought on by climate change —are negatively impacting salmon.
There have been many studies that forecast the changing conditions. The time has come where it is vital to assess factors that we can influence, and take action, to give salmon the best chance for future sustainability.
The Pacific Salmon Foundation is working with expert partners across British Columbia to uncover and deploy action-based solutions that will help wild Pacific salmon adapt to changing climate conditions and survive.
Pacific salmon habitat, notably the rivers and streams that flow throughout B.C. are warming and flow patterns are changing. Excessively low flows during drought months leave salmon stranded and exposed to predators. Warming temperatures can change rainfall and snowmelt patterns, meaning flooding and high, dangerous waters that can be impassable for salmon.
B.C.’s unique ecosystems and their incredible biodiversity depend on Pacific salmon and their ability to adapt in the face of changing habitat conditions.
With the support of donors and partners, we believe there are actions we can take to advance climate adaptation and give at-risk Pacific salmon a fighting chance at recovery and sustainability. Work is underway to help salmon adapt.
The Fraser River is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run and it’s a nursery for more than half of B.C.s salmon populations. Over the past few decades, it’s seen rapid declines in a number of salmon species, most notable, Chinook with most populations now threatened or endangered.
Climate change is impacting the river and the species that depend on it.
Erosion along the watershed, flooding, and increased water temperatures are a few of the significant impacts’ climate change has brought to bear on the Fraser. There are areas of concern along the migration route that we must better understand in order to find solutions for the migrating salmon.
Pacific Salmon Foundation is leading a study with partners to assess potential migration impediments and determine areas of potential improvement, including the existing fishways. The focus will be on areas downstream of Big Bar in the Fraser canyon.
Working with Matsqui and Yale First Nations, we’ve deployed fish wheels to capture migrating Chinook, and are tagging a subset of these salmon.
The project aims to track the precise locations where tagged salmon are holding between Hope and Lillooet. The goal is to identify migration impediments in the Fraser Canyon that can be rectified in the face of climate impacts, giving salmon a chance to adapt.
Climate change has seen the number of forest fires in Canada double since the 1970’s. Wildfires impact the entire surrounding ecosystem, including aquatic environments and vital salmon habitat. Pacific Salmon Foundation is developing a “Playbook” to guide landscape recovery strategies and priorities for salmon following major fires.
The project is working to identify priorities that minimize impacts to the aquatic ecosystem, and accelerate recovery of the landscape targeting areas most important for the recovery of watershed conditions. This guidance could help to ensure that the aquatic ecosystem is given due attention in post-fire forestry, silviculture, landscape management and can inform habitat conservation and restoration.
The Playbook will be a comprehensive tool to inform priorities and actions; identifying and coordinating opportunities to mitigate and manage post fire impacts to salmon habitats and to accelerate watershed recovery where fires have already occurred, and for future fire responses.
Young salmon are dying in the Salish Sea. And, while there are many contributing factors to this problem, there is one we can help solve. As ocean temperatures rise, we must protect and restore critical salmon habitats that vulnerable juvenile fish depend on. PSF is working with partners to research and identify thermotolerant kelp and eelgrass in order to restore these critical habitats for young Pacific salmon and the food they depend on. This work has added environmental benefits of carbon sequestration and the enhancement of our marine ecosystems. Read more about work underway here.
Through our Citizen Science ocean monitoring work we’re able to detect changes over time at a scale and consistency that’s unparalleled. If we don’t know what’s changing in our marine environments, it’s difficult to address and mitigate the impacts on key species. The Citizen Science Program is focused on engaging passionate volunteers who have access to a boat and in interest in supporting marine research over the course of time. With our citizen scientists we can track changing ocean temperatures, forage fish populations, and the diet patterns of at-risk salmon species.
Pacific salmon spend the majority of their life in the marine environment and as their ocean habitat warms this creates poorer conditions for optimal health of Pacific salmon and many other marine species. Our Salmon Ecological Health Program aims to gauge co-effects of marine stressors, including; disease agents, sea lice, ocean temperature and predation. We must better understand the scale of impact relating to cumulative effects across disease and environmental stressors. You can read more here.