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Modeling the Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Pacific Salmon Culture Programs: An Example at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery

Abstract

Hatcheries have long been used in an attempt to mitigate for declines in wild stocks of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), though the conservation benefit of hatcheries is a topic of ongoing debate. Irrespective of conservation benefits, a fundamental question is whether hatcheries will be able to function as they have in the past given anticipated future climate conditions. To begin to answer this question, we developed a deterministic modeling framework to evaluate how climate change may affect hatcheries that rear Pacific salmon. The framework considers the physiological tolerances for each species, incorporates a temperature-driven growth model, and uses two metrics commonly monitored by hatchery managers to determine the impacts of changes in water temperature and availability on hatchery rearing conditions. As a case study, we applied the model to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. We projected that hatchery environmental conditions remained within the general physiological tolerances for Chinook salmon in the 2040s (assuming A1B greenhouse gas emissions scenario), but that warmer water temperatures in summer accelerated juvenile salmon growth. Increased growth during summer coincided with periods when water availability should also be lower, thus increasing the likelihood of physiological stress in juvenile salmon. The identification of these climate sensitivities led to a consideration of potential mitigation strategies such as chilling water, altering rations, or modifying rearing cycles. The framework can be refined with new information, but in its present form, it provides a consistent, repeatable method to assess the vulnerability of hatcheries to predicted climate change.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Chris Pasley and the staff at WNFH for providing data and comments during the modeling process. The USFWS Pacific Region Climate Change Planning Team of Chris Pasley, Bill Gale, Patty Crandell and Don Campton provided general guidance on the scope and content of this project, and also contributed useful comments on this report. Ingrid Tohver and Nate Mantua (University of Washington, Climate Impacts Group) provided water temperature predictions for the Methow River basin. Tim Mayer (USFWS) provided valuable advice on how to consider surface–groundwater interactions in our analyses. Bill Brignon (USFWS), Joy Evered (USFWS), Doug Olsen (USFWS), David Patte (USFWS), Bruce Marcot (US Forest Service), Keeley Murdoch (Yakama Nation Fisheries Program), Tim Roth (USFWS), Brad Thompson (USFWS), and Nate Wiese (USFWS) raised important issues and participated in helpful discussions to inform the modeling approach. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Correspondence to Kyle C. Hanson.

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Hanson, K.C., Peterson, D.P. Modeling the Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Pacific Salmon Culture Programs: An Example at Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. Environmental Management 54, 433–448 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-014-0302-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-014-0302-2

Keywords

  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Salmon
  • Hatchery
  • Thermal stress
  • Hydrology