Global warming could open up thousands of miles of salmon habitat | Sports/Outdoors


A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change by a team of scientists has found that retreating glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia caused by global warming could open up more than 3,800 miles of potential new habitat for Atlantic salmon. Pacific by the year 2100.

The research team, led by a scientist from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, modeled the retreat of 46,000 glaciers from south-central Alaska to southern British Columbia to examine the amount of potential salmon habitat that would be created under different climate change scenarios. They found 315 glaciers which they believe will produce potential habitat for salmon if they retreat. Most are located along the central Gulf of Alaska and would provide an additional 27% of accessible salmon habitat.

“As glaciers melt, they expose new land, including waterways, that can be used to spawn Pacific salmon. Retreating glaciers will create the newest salmon habitat in low-slope (

Most people believe that salmon only return home to the streams they were born in, but newly exposed streams can be colonized fairly quickly by opportunistic Pacific salmon.

“It’s a common misconception that all salmon return home to the streams in which they were born,” says lead author Kara Pitman. “Most do, but some individuals will wander off – migrating into new streams to spawn and, if conditions are right, the population can increase rapidly.”

For example, Stonefly Creek in Glacier Bay, Alaska, where glacier retreat in the late 1970s revealed salmon spawning habitat in the new stream that was colonized within 10 years by pink salmon that quickly reached more than 5,000 spawners.

The results are positive for Pacific salmon, the authors warn that salmon still face a host of climate-related challenges.

“The creation of habitats associated with the loss of glaciers will benefit salmon, particularly in Alaska, but changes in temperatures and stream flow patterns as well as warming ocean conditions still pose serious threats. for future salmon populations,” said co-author Eran Hood, a professor at the University of Alaska Southeast. “Ultimately, understanding both the opportunities and challenges associated with the loss of glaciers will benefit future efforts to manage and conserve salmon populations.”

Michael Paschall is the editor of the Seward Journal and covers general current affairs. He can be reached at [email protected]


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