Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 10–11, pp 1187–1226 | Cite as

Adaptive strategies and life history characteristics in a warming climate: Salmon in the Arctic?

  • Jennifer L. Nielsen
  • Gregory T. Ruggerone
  • Christian E. Zimmerman


In the warming Arctic, aquatic habitats are in flux and salmon are exploring their options. Adult Pacific salmon, including sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka), coho (O. kisutch), Chinook (O. tshawytscha), pink (O. gorbuscha) and chum (O. keta) have been captured throughout the Arctic. Pink and chum salmon are the most common species found in the Arctic today. These species are less dependent on freshwater habitats as juveniles and grow quickly in marine habitats. Putative spawning populations are rare in the North American Arctic and limited to pink salmon in drainages north of Point Hope, Alaska, chum salmon spawning rivers draining to the northwestern Beaufort Sea, and small populations of chum and pink salmon in Canada’s Mackenzie River. Pacific salmon have colonized several large river basins draining to the Kara, Laptev and East Siberian seas in the Russian Arctic. These populations probably developed from hatchery supplementation efforts in the 1960’s. Hundreds of populations of Arctic Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are found in Russia, Norway and Finland. Atlantic salmon have extended their range eastward as far as the Kara Sea in central Russian. A small native population of Atlantic salmon is found in Canada’s Ungava Bay. The northern tip of Quebec seems to be an Atlantic salmon migration barrier for other North American stocks. Compatibility between life history requirements and ecological conditions are prerequisite for salmon colonizing Arctic habitats. Broad-scale predictive models of climate change in the Arctic give little information about feedback processes contributing to local conditions, especially in freshwater systems. This paper reviews the recent history of salmon in the Arctic and explores various patterns of climate change that may influence range expansions and future sustainability of salmon in Arctic habitats. A summary of the research needs that will allow informed expectation of further Arctic colonization by salmon is given.


Salmon Arctic Climate change Range expansion Ocean condition Freshwater habitat Colonization 



We thank the organizers of the 2010 PICES International Symposium on Climate Change Effects on Fish and Fisheries in Sendai, Japan for the opportunity to organize our thoughts on this topic. The paper was much improved by reviews from Kevin Friedland, Lyman Thorsteinsen, two anonymous reviewers, and the journal’s editorial staff. Funding was partially provided by the U. S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center. Mention of trade names does not imply US Government endorsement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Nielsen
    • 1
  • Gregory T. Ruggerone
    • 2
  • Christian E. Zimmerman
    • 3
  1. 1.South Sound Marine InstituteLongbranchUSA
  2. 2.Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.SeattleUSA
  3. 3.US Geological SurveyAlaska Science CenterAnchorageUSA

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