Increasing the population of spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead in Washington state’s Methow River is a goal of the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan. Spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead are listed as endangered and threatened, respectively, under the Endangered Species Act.
Installing logjams and reconnecting the river to its floodplain are management actions being undertaken to restore salmon habitat. However, researchers with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Idaho State University found that focusing solely on physical habitat restoration overlooks the importance of maintaining the food webs supporting all river life.
When comparing prey production and habitat structure in the Methow River system, the research team found that complex floodplain landscapes support an array of food webs. Restoration actions may unintentionally alter these food webs, either to the benefit or detriment of juvenile salmon. Restoration efforts designed to protect the processes that create and maintain habitat complexity and sustain diverse food webs may be more beneficial to fish. As part of this holistic approach, the research team developed a model that allows land managers to explore how proposed river restoration projects influence river food webs and fish populations.
In the western US, grazing management on federal lands containing habitat for fish species listed under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) has sparked social conflict and litigation for decades. To date, the problem has been addressed through a top-down environmental governance system, but rangeland managers and grazing permittees now believe there is a need for more innovative management strategies. This article explores how social–ecological systems (SES) science can address rangeland management challenges associated with the survival and recovery of ESA-listed fish species on federal lands where cattle grazing is a dominant type of land use. We focus on the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, where the Mountain Social Ecological Observatory Network’s Blue Mountains Working Group is collaborating with diverse stakeholders to develop and test a novel grazing system designed to reduce the impact of cattle on riparian areas using an SES science approach. Although not a complete solution, SES science holds promise for improving rangeland management.
Check out ongoing research by station scientists Brooke Penaluna and Richard Cronn to test the use of a new multispecies eDNA approach for assessing freshwater biodiversity. The story includes a brief description of their project, methods, and future direction as well as their collaborators and partners.