Salmon Recovery, Science on the Street|

How riparian and floodplain restoration modify the effects of increasing temperature on adult salmon spawner abundance in the Chehalis River, WA

Stream temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are projected to increase with climate change, placing additional stress on cold-water salmonids. We modeled the potential impact of increased stream temperatures on four anadromous salmonid populations in the Chehalis River Basin (spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, coho salmon O. kisutch, and steelhead O. mykiss), as well as the potential for floodplain reconnection and stream shade restoration to offset the effects of future temperature increases. In the Chehalis River Basin, peak summer stream temperatures are predicted to increase by as much as 3°C by late-century, but restoration actions can locally decrease temperatures by as much as 6°C. On average, however, basin-wide average stream temperatures are expected to increase because most reaches have low temperature reduction potential for either restoration action relative to climate change. Results from the life cycle models indicated that, without restoration actions, increased summer temperatures are likely to produce significant declines in spawner abundance by late-century for coho (-29%), steelhead (-34%), and spring-run Chinook salmon (-95%), and smaller decreases for fall-run Chinook salmon (-17%). Restoration actions reduced these declines in all cases, although model results suggest that temperature restoration alone may not fully mitigate effects of future temperature increases. Notably, floodplain reconnection provided a greater benefit than riparian restoration for steelhead and both Chinook salmon populations, but riparian restoration provided a greater benefit for coho. This pattern emerged because coho salmon tend to spawn and rear in smaller streams where shade restoration has a larger effect on stream temperature, whereas Chinook and steelhead tend to occupy larger rivers where temperatures are more influenced by floodplain connectivity. Spring-run Chinook salmon are the only population for which peak temperatures affect adult prespawn survival in addition to rearing survival, making them the most sensitive species to increasing stream temperatures.

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