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Stream network geomorphology mediates predicted vulnerability of anadromous fish habitat to hydrologic change in southeast AlaskaAuthor(s): Matthew R. Sloat; Gordon H. Reeves; Kelly R. Christiansen
Source: Global Change Biology
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
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DescriptionIn rivers supporting Pacific salmon in southeast Alaska, USA, regional trends toward a warmer, wetter climate are predicted to increase mid- and late-21st-century mean annual flood size by 17% and 28%, respectively. Increased flood size could alter stream habitats used by Pacific salmon for reproduction, with negative consequences for the substantial economic, cultural, and ecosystem services these fish provide. We combined field measurements and model simulations to estimate the potential influence of future flood disturbance on geomorphic processes controlling the quality and extent of coho, chum, and pink salmon spawning habitat in over 800 southeast Alaska watersheds. Spawning habitat responses varied widely across watersheds and among salmon species. Little variation among watersheds in potential spawning habitat change was explained by predicted increases in mean annual flood size. Watershed response diversity was mediated primarily by topographic controls on stream channel confinement, reach-scale geomorphic associations with spawning habitat preferences, and complexity in the pace and mode of geomorphic channel responses to altered flood size. Potential spawning habitat loss was highest for coho salmon, which spawn over a wide range of geomorphic settings, including steeper, confined stream reaches that are more susceptible to streambed scour during high flows. We estimated that 9–10% and 13–16% of the spawning habitat for coho salmon could be lost by the 2040s and 2080s, respectively, with losses occurring primarily in confined, higher-gradient streams that provide only moderate-quality habitat. Estimated effects were lower for pink and chum salmon, which primarily spawn in unconfined floodplain streams. Our results illustrate the importance of accounting for valley and reach-scale geomorphic features in watershed assessments of climate vulnerability, especially in topographically complex regions. Failure to consider the geomorphic context of stream networks will hamper efforts to understand and mitigate the vulnerability of anadromous fish habitat to climate-induced hydrologic change.
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CitationSloat, Matthew R.; Reeves, Gordon H.; Christiansen, Kelly R. 2017. Stream network geomorphology mediates predicted vulnerability of anadromous fish habitat to hydrologic change in southeast Alaska. Global Change Biology. 23(2): 604-620. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13466.
KeywordsClimate change, flooding, geomorphology, Pacific salmon, spawning habitat, streambed scour.
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