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Abstract Glacier retreat poses risks and benefits for species of cultural and economic importance. One example is Pacific salmon ( Oncorhynchus spp.), supporting subsistence harvests, and commercial and recreational fisheries worth billions of dollars annually. Although decreases in summer streamflow and warming freshwater is reducing salmon habitat quality in parts of their range, glacier retreat is creating new streams and lakes that salmon can colonize. However, potential gains in future salmon habitat associated with glacier loss have yet to be quantified across the range of Pacific salmon. Here we project future gains in Pacific salmon freshwater habitat by linking a model of glacier mass change for 315 glaciers, forced by five different Global Climate Models, with a simple model of salmon stream habitat potential throughout the Pacific Mountain ranges of western North America. We project that by the year 2100 glacier retreat will create 6,146 (±1,619) km of new streams accessible for colonization by Pacific salmon, of which 1,930 (±569) km have the potential to be used for spawning and juvenile rearing, representing 0 to 27% gains within the 18 sub-regions we studied. These findings can inform proactive management and conservation of Pacific salmon in this era of rapid climatemore »
Abstract Glaciers have shaped past and present habitats for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in North America. During the last glacial maximum, approximately 45% of the current North American range of Pacific salmon was covered in ice. Currently, most salmon habitat occurs in watersheds in which glacier ice is present and retreating. This synthesis examines the multiple ways that glacier retreat can influence aquatic ecosystems through the lens of Pacific salmon life cycles. We predict that the coming decades will result in areas in which salmon populations will be challenged by diminished water flows and elevated water temperatures, areas in which salmon productivity will be enhanced as downstream habitat suitability increases, and areas in which new river and lake habitat will be formed that can be colonized by anadromous salmon. Effective conservation and management of salmon habitat and populations should consider the impacts of glacier retreat and other sources of ecosystem change.