Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Evolutionary Changes and Salmon Symposium

December 7-9, 2006
Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA

A great deal of effort (and money) has been expended in evaluating anthropogenic factors that have contributed to the widespread declines of anadromous Pacific salmonids. With few exceptions, however, these efforts have focused on ecological/demographic effects, and relatively little attention has been paid to the evolutionary response of salmon to anthropogenic change. This is unfortunate, because any changes to the ecosystems that salmon inhabit will alter the selective regimes they experience and can be expected to elicit an evolutionary response. What is not clear is the nature and magnitude of these evolutionary changes and the consequences they have for long-term viability of natural populations of these species, which play such an important role in marine and terrestrial ecosystems as well as in human societies.

The Symposium brought together top salmon biologists and top evolutionary biologists to explore this challenging topic. The Symposium had two major objectives: to provide a public forum for discussing these important issues and raising awareness of their importance for salmon conservation; and to provide necessary information on salmon biology to evolutionary biologists and information on evolutionary biology to salmon biologists, in the hope of establishing substantive collaborations and exchanges. Contributed posters covered three general themes: 1) The nature and extent of anthropogenic changes that affect salmon and their ecosystems; 2) Data for salmon that provide insights into their potential for evolutionary change; 3) Case studies from other organisms that demonstrate an evolutionary response to anthropogenic change. The Symposium was followed by a two-day workshop of invited participants who focused in more detail on specific kinds of anthropogenic change faced by Pacific salmon and the kinds of evolutionary responses they can be expected to elicit. Each workgroup included regional scientists familiar with datasets for Pacific salmon and steelhead as well as evolutionary biologists who have experience in interpreting such data in an evolutionary context.

Meeting Report