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Climate change and potential impacts on bristol bay sockeye salmon populations
Aicher, R., J. Todd, AND J. Ebersole. Climate change and potential impacts on bristol bay sockeye salmon populations. Presented at Webinar presentation to the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, September 26, 2012.
Sockeye salmon are potentially vulnerable to climate change throughout the salmon life cycle in both freshwater and marine habitats. Freshwater habitat changes include increased water temperatures and altered hydrologic regimes. These fundamental changes could engage a suite of cascading effects that could influence habitat conditions for salmon spawning and freshwater rearing, alter the productivity of freshwater habitats, and change habitat suitability for salmon predators and competitors. In the marine environment, changes in ocean circulation patterns, temperatures, productivity and community composition could strongly influence salmon survival. Effects of climate change in the marine and freshwater environments for salmon are likely to interact in complex ways. Research across the range of sockeye salmon is elucidating potential climate effects on this species, but responses are often complex, and may be region and scale dependent. In this research, we summarize the peer-reviewed literature on the potential effects of climate change on sockeye salmon within a conceptual model that encompasses the full life cycle of salmon across both the marine and freshwater environments. We identify pathways within the conceptual model where agreement on predicted effects is converging, and pathways where projected impacts are equivocal, regionally-specific, or poorly understood. This effort will help identify the degree of emerging consensus of potential climate change impacts on sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, a region supporting a globally-valuable sockeye salmon fishery and facing increasing human demands for natural resources. Where uncertainties remain high but effects are potentially significant, this effort will provide a basis for prioritizing monitoring and research programs for this highly-prized salmon species.
Scientific research has shown that climate change has already caused detectable changes to ecosystems throughout Alaska. As warming is predicted to continue, it is likely to lead to changes in marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems and impact sockeye salmon populations in Bristol Bay, Alaska. In order to better predict how sockeye salmon will respond to climate change in both freshwater and marine ecosystems, it is crucial to evaluate the current knowledge of how the salmon and ecosystem are responding and identify key gaps in knowledge. This webinar will describe a conceptual model that is used to synthesize results from over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles to describe current trends in sockeye salmon populations, responses to climate change, predicted responses to climate change, and research needs in Alaska.