Emerson College Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Assistant Professor Jon Honea is the lead author of a new study on the impacts of climate change on an endangered population of salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
Honea and his co-authors from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration linked global climate models, hydrology models, landscape models, and a salmon population model to assess the impact of predicted changes in climate on a population of Chinook or “king” salmon. They found that predicted increases in air temperature and changes in precipitation patterns will result in increases in water temperature and changes in river flow that are likely to reduce the size of the salmon population that is already at risk of extinction due to human alteration of their habitat and past harvest practices.
They also found that although water temperature is likely to increase the most in winter, the increase during the summer when the adults return from their ocean migration to spawn is likely to have the greatest negative impact. This is because the fish are already near their temperature tolerance limits at that time, and even a small increase in water temperature during the summer can be expected to decrease their survival rates.
They concluded that some, but not all, of the negative impacts of climate change could be mitigated by a reduction in the area of impervious surfaces such as pavement and by reforestation along the river.
The new study is now online in the December 2016 issue of Climate Research.