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A New Tool Manages Salmonid Response to Climate Change

Photo of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) spawning in the Salmon River in Oregon.Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) spawning in the Salmon River in Oregon.Snapshot : Salmonids, like endangered Coho salmon in Washington and Oregon, have a complex life history that is tied to environmental cues such as river temperature and flow. As human development and climate change lead to altered river conditions, salmonids may find themselves in unsuitable conditions. The ichthyograph is a new tool that fishery managers can use to identify salmon populations that may be most at risk under future river conditions.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Grant, GordonPenaluna, Brooke
Flitcroft, Rebecca 
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1570


Over millennia, native salmonids in North America have developed a complex strategy where important life events, such as spawning, coincide with specific river conditions, like flow and temperature. As river systems are modified by development and climate change, the current adaptations of native salmonids may not be compatible with future altered river flow and temperature, directly impacting their survival. USDA Forest Service scientists at the agency's Pacific Northwest Research Station and colleagues developed a new tool to assess the adaptability of salmonids to changing river conditions: the ichthyograph. Combining long-term records of river flow, water temperature, and upstream fish movement, the ichthyograph offers new insight into the ability of salmonids to survive in a range of future river conditions. Scientists used the ichthyograph method to assess endangered Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) populations in rivers across Washington and Oregon under various possible future river conditions. In some rivers, future river conditions may be within the current behavioral adaptations of Coho salmon. In other rivers, future conditions may fall outside the ability of Coho salmon to adapt, suggesting potential negative impacts to their migration and survival. The ichthyograph is being used by fisheries biologists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries to inform interpretation of river flows needed to support multiple salmonid life stages.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Oregon State University
  • University of California
  • Western Oregon University