Protecting the salmon future

Ocean conditions have a profound effect on the distribution, growth, and survival of salmon.

Predicting specific effects of climate change on salmon in their marine environment is difficult due to limited knowledge of the marine habits of salmon, combined with uncertainties about how marine habitats will be affected by climate change.

We know ocean temperatures are increasing. We also know there are more salmon in the North Pacific than at any point in the past 100 years. By accounting for how warming and increasing competition interact to affect salmon survival, we can help inform decision makers on potential changes in salmon productivity to better plan for an uncertain future.

Learn about the Ocean Conditions Working Group

Latitudinal effects

The effect of temperature and competitors on salmon stocks depends on where the salmon are from.

When a warming ocean is coupled with increasing salmon competitors, southern (West Coast) stocks experience a decline in productivity. Further north (Bering Sea), warming improves survival, while very little competitor effect is seen.

Planktonic algal blooms

It has been suggested that many of the food webs of which salmon are a part will be disrupted by climate change. For example, the timing of the planktonic ‘blooms’ required by the young is governed by climatic factors. Changes in the timing of these blooms could cause a scarcity of food at a critical stage of the salmon’s life cycle.

Plantonic Dance, NASA

Arctic migration of salmon

Salmon are becoming more common in the Arctic region of Alaska. We evaluated current gaps in Arctic monitoring and made recommendations to decision-makers on how to improve understanding of the expansion of salmon into the Arctic.

Canning River, AK  USFWS

Life history variation

Does variation in age at ocean entry (smolt age) mediate effects of competition? Our models suggest that salmon populations that exhibit more variation in age of smolts may be buffered from the negative effects of competition.

Coho school, Alaska Sea Grant