Melting Glaciers Could Cause More Salmon
The news about glaciers is usually centers around with how fast they're melting. This story warms up to that topic, but in a different way. A study by Canada's Simon Fraser University has suggested that some melting ice fields will create new areas that the Pacific Salmon should thrive in.
The fish makes a long swim between inland spawning grounds and the ocean. The inland areas have been shrinking due to drought and water temperatures that are too hot. However, researchers found some glaciers will uncover suitable habitat as they retreat. The study used a computer program to digitally "peel back" the ice on more than 46,000 glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia and found over 300 glaciers that could leave a salmon-friendly area as they melt.
The streams need to be connected to the ocean and have under a 10 percent upward slope to the new spawning grounds. The University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station was part of the study, which showed a "moderate" climate change would create over 6,000 kilometers of new salmon habitat by the year 2100. Diane Whited of the Flathead Lake facility focused on the new areas uncovered after the glaciers recede. She said in a news release, "Climate change alters the shape and dynamics of stream ecosystems. This information is crucial for managing the future of salmon habitat and productivity."
Now, with the good news comes the bad news - if current warming trends continue, the new habitats would themselves overheat and disappear. Lead author of the study Kara Pitman said, "On one hand, this amount of new salmon habitat will provide local opportunities for some salmon populations. On the other hand, climate change and other human impacts continue to threaten salmon survival via warming rivers, changes in stream flows and poor ocean conditions." The complete study is online. The title is "Glacier retreat creating new Pacific salmon habitat in western North America."