Endangered coho salmon populations, which already faced hardships during dry seasons, are now faced with more looming danger due to climate change and human water use. Every year, as streamflow naturally recedes, juvenile coho salmon are faced with the task of migrating downstream through increasingly shallower water to the ocean. Climate change is anticipated to make these dry spells more frequent and intense. Drought conditions also reduce water availability for human use, resulting in further stream water diversions to aid local communities.
This reduced streamflow has been identified as a key bottleneck in the recovery of these endangered salmon, resulting in the need for strategies to better manage water use and stream diversions.
In this project, researchers aim to determine the minimum necessary water levels and streamflows that support the coho salmon downstream migration. They then plan to use the data to build a model for the necessary water conservation to protect coho salmon. These factors will also be used in collaborative efforts with a community partner organization to develop water management strategies that protect the necessary streamflow for salmon and maintain water security for local communities.
Their findings can pave the way for more resilient coastal freshwater management in regions prone to drought, which face an even more uncertain future as climate change progresses. Improved management will prove critical not only in the protection of salmon, but also in the water security of local communities.