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Monitoring Climate Change Along The Coast Of Olympic National Park

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What impact is climate change having on the coastal areas of Olympic National Park? The following 14-minute video takes a look at that question.

Climate change will have many of its first impacts to our coasts and intertidal communities. This film highlights Dr. Steven Fradkin, coastal ecologist at Olympic National Park and his work monitoring intertidal life.



The following 14-minute video takes a look at that question.

And his conclusion is.....???? The area looks pretty much like it did 200 years ago.

How old are you, EC?;-)

Old enough to think for myself. Old enough to look, listen, analyze and reach a conclusion based on the facts and not emotion. But what is the point of the question? Its not your normal style.

Well, the point of the question is how do you know what coastal conditions were two centuries ago? Were acid levels in the Pacific the same then as they are now? If not, how is ocean acidification affecting shellfish? Have there been changes over the past 200 years to winter and spring precipitation (both form and amount), and if so, how has it affected salmon runs?

As noted by Battin et al. (2006), climate change will force shifts in the distribution of salmon populations that will affect their ability to cope with natural disturbances, particularly drought. Streams located high in watersheds that historically provided some of the best habitat may no longer be accessible to salmon if snowpack is reduced, thus limiting available rearing areas and access to thermal refugia in summer. Crozier et al. (2008) modeled Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) population response to alternative climate scenarios in Idaho's Salmon River and found that even moderate changes significantly increased the risk of local population extirpation. Crozier and Zabel (2006) suggested that two climate-related factors (temperature and streamflow) could affect habitat in different ways depending on local site characteristics; narrow, confined streams were more sensitive to flow changes, and wide streams were more sensitive to temperature changes. They concluded that different aspects of climate change were important at different spatial scales, and that a diversity of conditions was needed for metapopulation stability.

Trout and salmon within the interior Columbia River Basin may be especially sensitive to climate change, according to a recent report by a scientific panel (ISAB 2007). Although the intensity of the effects will vary spatially, climate change will alter virtually all streams and rivers in the basin. Current predictions suggest that temperature increases alone will render 2 to 7 percent of headwater trout habitat in the Pacific Northwest unsuitable by 2030, 5 to 20 percent by 2060, and 8 to 33 percent by 2090. Salmon habitat may be more severely affected, in part because these fish are usually restricted to lower, hence warmer, elevations within the region. Salmon habitat loss would be most severe in Oregon and Idaho with potential losses exceeding 40 percent by 2090. Loss of salmon habitat in Washington would be less severe, with the worst-case scenario indicating about 22 percent loss by 2090.


Both marine and freshwater phases of coho salmon play a significant role in the variability of recruitment. In fresh water, air temperatures and second winter flows correlate strongly with smolt production. There is a relationship between air temperature and sea water temperature indicating that favourable freshwater conditions typically lend to favourable marine conditions. The majority (90%) of interannual variability in marine survival of hatchery reared coho salmon between 1985 and 1996 can be explained by coastal oceanographic conditions.

Changes in climate also affect the size of Pacific salmon produced in Washington, Oregon and California rivers. Size is negatively correlated with the multivariable El Niño Southern Oscillation Index (ENSO), resulting in smaller fish during El Niño events. El Niño years, which tend to be warmer and dryer, are associated with decreased snow pack, decreased stream flow and below average salmon survival. Warm conditions from 1950-1990 had a negative affect on coho and Chinook salmon production off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Cool/wet conditions did not show this relationship.

Hatchery reared juvenile Chinook salmon in Puget Sound released during even-numbered years demonstrate a dramatic decrease in survival (59%) when compared to those released in odd-numbered years. The impact of competition with pink salmon as well as climate effects after El Niño years are attributed to this decrease in survival. Furthermore, negative effects of hatchery salmon may be stronger on vulnerable populations. There is a strong negative relationship between wild Snake River spring Chinook salmon survival and the number of hatchery Chinook salmon released based on a 25 year time series. This relationship is accentuated during years of poor oceanic conditions in a changing climate.

Changes in ocean conditions appear to play a larger role in the survival of coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Northeast Pacific ocean than does the increased production from hatcheries. For example, environmental and anthropogenic factors affect the spawning date of salmonids. Spawning dates for coho and Chinook salmon at the University of Washington hatchery have become earlier since the 1950s and 1960s in association with an increase in stream temperatures. However, genetic factors appear to play a more significant role in timing of spawning than stream temperatures. A model based on archaeological and paleological evidence was used to predict the effects of climate change on salmon populations from the Columbia River basin. The model predicts a 30-60% decline for these stocks
under conditions similar to those 6000-7000 years ago when temperatures were up to 2°C warmer.

how do you know what coastal conditions were two centuries ago?

I don't. But the conclusion wasn't mine, it was the conclusion of Dr. Steven Fradkin.

I am glad we have climate change, one perpetual season would be boring. Some new taxes will fix everything.

EC, that wasn't his conclusion. I think you're taking things a bit out of context. That comment was in describing the outward appearance of the Olympic NP coast.

He also said the salmon fisheries have been depleted from what they once were, and that "With climate change, when you have these periods where the temperature rises, it is going to change the fundamental nature of this ecosystem." To monitor that change, they have set up grids along the intertidal zones.

"The thing about climate change," he noted, "is that there's no one particular item which is a smoking gun, so you can't look any one particular instance, one particular heat wave event, one particular storm, and say aha, this is proof of climate change. Proof of climate change is taken over a longer period of time."

And that's where the monitoring that's being done in Olympic comes into play.

No emotion there. And the additional citations I pulled out provide some facts that further buttress his point. His research could add to that. Now, if you have another set of facts....



He also said the salmon fisheries have been depleted

But I don't believe he attributed that to climate change. That is more a factor of over fishing and dammed rivers.

With climate change, when you have these periods where the temperature rises, it is going to change the fundamental nature of this ecosystem.

Maybe, but what is so surprising about that? Climate has changed since day one. I kept waiting for him to provide the evidence that the ecosystem was being affected and that man was the cause. It never came.

Nevertheless, I appreciate his work and enjoyed the videography.

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