Friday, December 25, 2009

Pathways to Resilient Salmon Ecosystems

Pathways to Resilient Salmon Ecosystems

“Resilience - the ability of a system to absorb disturbance without losing its characteristic structure or function - is the key idea that links articles in the issue.”


Human and salmonid societies are linked as well as integrated. What we do to salmon populations and to the habitats that sustain them affect the health of salmon populations as well as that of our own. Wild salmon in the Northwest and the Northeast of North America are suffering. They are in decline and many have been lost forever. Those of us who live in these regions are responsible for their future and the ecological services a healthy environment provides for all of us. Salmon are a primary indicator that our landscape is healthy and productive, diverse as it is from mountains to valleys and from forests to grasslands. Our commitment to having a healthy environment includes a place for salmon as well as our economy since they are fully linked.
I have provided the following abstracts on salmon resilience to introduce the topic, and there is a link to the full studies that are on an open access web page at the end of each abstract for you.

Reconnecting Social and Ecological Resilience in Salmon Ecosystems

ABSTRACT. Fishery management programs designed to control Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) for optimum production have failed to prevent widespread fish population decline and have caused greater uncertainty for salmon, their ecosystems, and the people who depend upon them. In this special feature introduction, we explore several key attributes of ecosystem resilience that have been overlooked by traditional salmon management approaches. The dynamics of salmon ecosystems involve social–ecological interactions across multiple scales that create difficult mismatches with the many jurisdictions that manage fisheries and other natural resources. Of particular importance to ecosystem resilience are large-scale shifts in oceanic and climatic regimes or in global economic conditions that unpredictably alter social and ecological systems. Past management actions that did not account for such changes have undermined salmon population resilience and increased the risk of irreversible regime shifts in salmon ecosystems. Because salmon convey important provisioning, cultural, and supporting services to their local watersheds, widespread population decline has undermined both human well-being and ecosystem resilience. Strengthening resilience will require expanding habitat opportunities for salmon populations to express their maximum life-history variation. Such actions also may benefit the “response diversity” of local communities by expanding the opportunities for people to express diverse social and economic values. Reestablishing social–ecological connections in salmon ecosystems will provide important ecosystem services, including those that depend on clean water, ample stream flows, functional wetlands and floodplains, intact riparian systems, and abundant fish populations.

Bottom, D. L., K. K. Jones, C. A. Simenstad, and C. L. Smith. 2009. Reconnecting social and ecological resilience in salmon ecosystems. Ecology and Society 14(1): 5. [online] URL: http://www.

Evolutionary History, Habitat Disturbance Regimes, and Anthropogenic Changes: What Do These Mean for Resilience of Pacific Salmon Populations?

ABSTRACT. Because resilience of a biological system is a product of its evolutionary history, the historical template that describes the relationships between species and their dynamic habitats is an important point of reference. Habitats used by Pacific salmon have been quite variable throughout their evolutionary history, and these habitats can be characterized by four key attributes of disturbance regimes: frequency, magnitude, duration, and predictability. Over the past two centuries, major anthropogenic changes to salmon ecosystems have dramatically altered disturbance regimes that the species experience. To the extent that these disturbance regimes assume characteristics outside the range of the historical template, resilience of salmon populations might be compromised. We discuss anthropogenic changes that are particularly likely to compromise resilience of Pacific salmon and management actions that could help bring the current patterns of disturbance regimes more in line with the historical template.

Waples, R. S., T. Beechie, and G. R. Pess 2009. Evolutionary history, habitat disturbance regimes, and anthropogenic changes: What do these mean for resilience of Pacific salmon populations? Ecology and Society 14(1): 3. [online] URL:

Resilient Salmon, Resilient Fisheries for British Columbia, Canada

ABSTRACT. Salmon are inherently resilient species. However, this resiliency has been undermined in British Columbia by a century of centralized, command-and-control management focused initially on maximizing yield and, more recently, on economic efficiency. Community and cultural resiliency have also been undermined, especially by the recent emphasis on economic efficiency, which has concentrated access in the hands of a few and has disenfranchised fishery-dependent communities. Recent declines in both salmon stocks and salmon prices have revealed the systemic failure of the current management system. If salmon and their fisheries are to become viable again, radically new management policies are needed. For the salmon species, the emphasis must shift from maximizing yield to restoring resilience; for salmon fisheries, the emphasis must shift from maximizing economic efficiency to maximizing community and cultural resilience. For the species, an approach is needed that integrates harvest management, habitat management, and habitat enhancement to sustain and enhance resilience. This is best achieved by giving fishing and aboriginal communities greater responsibility and authority to manage the fisheries on which they depend. Co-management arrangements that involve cooperative ownership of major multistock resources like the Fraser River and Skeena River fisheries and community-based quota management of smaller fisheries provide ways to put species conservation much more directly in the hands of the communities most dependent on the well-being and resilience of these fisheries.

Healey, M. C. 2009. Resilient salmon, resilient fisheries for British Columbia, Canada. Ecology and Society 14(1): 2. [online] URL:

Freshwater Ecosystems and Resilience of Pacific Salmon: Habitat Management Based on Natural Variability

ABSTRACT. In spite of numerous habitat restoration programs in fresh waters with an aggregate annual funding of millions of dollars, many populations of Pacific salmon remain significantly imperiled. Habitat restoration strategies that address limited environmental attributes and partial salmon life-history requirements or approaches that attempt to force aquatic habitat to conform to idealized but ecologically unsustainable conditions may partly explain this lack of response. Natural watershed processes generate highly variable environmental conditions and population responses, i.e., multiple life histories, that are often not considered in restoration. Examples from several locations underscore the importance of natural variability to the resilience of Pacific salmon. The implication is that habitat restoration efforts will be more likely to foster salmon resilience if they consider processes that generate and maintain natural variability in fresh water. We identify three specific criteria for management based on natural variability: the capacity of aquatic habitat to recover from disturbance, a range of habitats distributed across stream networks through time sufficient to fulfill the requirements of diverse salmon life histories, and ecological connectivity. In light of these considerations, we discuss current threats to habitat resilience and describe how regulatory and restoration approaches can be modified to better incorporate natural variability.

Bisson, P. A., J. B. Dunham, and G. H. Reeves. 2009. Freshwater ecosystems and resilience of Pacific salmon: habitat management based on natural variability. Ecology and Society 14(1): 45. [online] URL:

The Social Construction of Fishing, 1949

ABSTRACT. The theoretical construction known as maximum sustained yield (MSY) exists in three realms: as science, as policy, and as a legal concept. Despite substantial criticism by scientists and economists, MSY remains at the heart of fisheries science and fisheries management. This paper suggests that its institutional resilience springs more from its policy and legal roles than from its scientific strength. Maximum sustained yield was adopted as the goal of American fisheries policy in 1949. Between 1949 and 1955, the State Department pushed for its adoption internationally. In this paper, I first look briefly at the relationship between fishing and foreign policy goals during this period. Second, I look at how fishing was understood during 1949, when the American High Seas Fishing Policy was adopted. Third, I look at the actions of the 1955 International Technical Conference on the Conservation of the Living Resources of the Sea and how American actions shaped the development of fisheries science and the modern fishery management process.

Finley, C. 2009. The social construction of fishing, 1949. Ecology and Society 14(1): 6. [online] URL:

Resilience in Lower Columbia River Salmon Communities

ABSTRACT. In 1992, the first listings of Columbia River salmon under the Endangered Species Act occurred. Regulation of the Columbia River gillnet fishery since that time has greatly reduced fishing time and economic return to the fishing fleet. The counties where two-thirds of the gillnetters reside have registered negative social statistics during this period, including drug and alcohol abuse rates, incomes, and mortality rates, among others. The fishing communities’ attempts to cope with this change, their strategies for resilience, and the potential consequences for their ability to advocate on behalf of salmon should they be further weakened are discussed. The possibility exists that the gillnet population could abandon its commitment to the Columbia River and settle in other areas.

Martin, I. E. 2008. Resilience in Lower Columbia River salmon communities. Ecology and Society 13(2):23. [online] URL:

The Fate of Coho Salmon Nomads: The Story of an Estuarine-Rearing Strategy Promoting Resilience

ABSTRACT. The downstream movement of coho salmon nomads (age 0), conventionally considered surplus fry, has been an accepted characteristic of juvenile coho salmon for the past 40 to 50 yr. The fate of these nomads, however, was not known and they were assumed to perish in the ocean. Several studies and observations have recently provided new insights into the fate of nomads and the role of the stream-estuary ecotone and estuary in developing this life history strategy that promotes coho resilience. Chinook and sockeye salmon have developed the ocean-type life-history strategy to exploit the higher productivity of the estuarine environment and migrate to the ocean at age 0. Nomad coho can acclimate to brackish water, and survive and grow well in the stream-estuary ecotone and estuary, but instead of migrating to the ocean they return upstream into freshwater to overwinter before migrating to the ocean as smolts. Nomads may enter the estuarine environment from natal or non-natal streams, rear there throughout the summer, and then emigrate to a non-natal stream for overwintering and smolting in the spring. These estuarine and overwintering habitats have enabled coho to develop this unique nomad life history strategy that may help to ensure their resilience. Restoring estuarine habitats may be essential to the recovery of depressed populations of coho.

Koski, K V. 2009. The fate of coho salmon nomads: the story of an estuarine-rearing strategy promoting resilience. Ecology and Society 14(1): 4. [online] URL:

Institutions for Managing Resilient Salmon (Oncorhynchus Spp.) Ecosystems: the Role of Incentives and Transaction Costs

ABSTRACT. Institutions are the mechanisms that integrate the human and ecological spheres. This paper discusses the institutional challenge of integrating salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) ecosystems and human systems in ways that effectively promote resilience. Salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin demonstrates the challenge. Despite the comprehensive scope of Basin salmon management, it has a number of problems that illustrate the difficulties of designing institutions for ecosystem and human system resilience. The critical elements of salmon ecosystem management are incentives and transaction costs, and these comprise a large piece of missing institutional infrastructure. Once the focus is placed on incentives and costs, a number of different management strategies emerge as options for salmon ecosystems, including refugia, property rights to ecosystem goods and services, co-management, and markets in ecosystem services.

Hanna, S. S. 2008. Institutions for managing resilient salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) ecosystems: the role of incentives and transaction costs. Ecology and Society 13(2): 35. [online] URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment