Report: Nearly half of California salmon species on track for extinction
If the global average temperature continues to rise unabated and climate zones shift beyond the range of some species, many of these species will be effectively pushed off the planet, perhaps even leading to mass extinction within shared ecosystems. As temperatures rise and precipitation patterns change, many fish species (such as salmon, trout, whitefish, and char) will be lost from lower-elevation streams.
Biologists spent 18 months analyzing 32 types of fish native to California, including coho, chinook, chum and pink salmon and rainbow, cutthroat and redband trout. Mountain whitefish, a salmonid that favors deep, cold mountain water in places like Lake Tahoe, was also studied, as was the extinct bull trout.
The report, titled “State of the Salmonids II: Fish in Hot Water,” found that 14 more fish species are likely to disappear within 50 years without major efforts to protect their habitats. After 100 years, 23 of today’s 31 species would be extinct, researchers said.
“The overwhelming and overarching threat is climate change,” said Curtis Knight, the executive director of Cal Trout. “Certainly this is a call to action. It’s telling us to do more and do it quicker.”
The new study is a follow-up to the 2008 State of the Salmonids report, also done by the two organizations. Since the first report, the number of fish species predicted as likely to go extinct in 50 years has nearly tripled, from five to 14. Overall, the scientists said, 81 percent of California’s native fish species are worse off today than they were in 2008.
If nothing changes, the biggest losers will be several species of salmon, according to the report. That’s because they are anadromous, Knight said, meaning they migrate up rivers from the sea and must deal with a myriad of obstacles, including warming water, loss of floodplain habitat and dams that block spawning grounds.