Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Ecosystem Analysis Projects


Dr. Beth Sanderson
Program Manager
Staff Directory

Assessing climate impacts to Pacific salmon

Pie chart showing various effects of climite change to salmon. Summary of the percentage of papers that described each category of salmon responses to variation in climate, based on a review of 1,100 scientific papers on climate change & impacts to salmon 2010–2013.  

A warming climate will alter both freshwater and marine communities, affecting resources for both fishers and endangered fish species. 

For Pacific salmon, climate has diverse affects.  Changes in stream temperature and flow alter fish survival, swimming performance, and metabolic rates, which in turn determine energetic costs and growth.

Climate also affects habitat abundance, diversity, and access.

Finally, the physical environment affects all species, most notably for salmon, both prey and predators.  In response to higher temperatures, predators will likely consume more prey.  Furthermore, warm–water invasive predators such as bass will grow more prevalent.

A review of the scientific literature of climate impacts on salmon reveals the many pathways these influences can take.

In the Ecosystems Analysis Program, our goal is to quantify climate influences on salmon in freshwater and marine environments over all life stages.  Frequently this requires developing novel statistical tools.  We then incorporate these relationships into models that can be used to assess extinction risk.  Our comprehensive, multi–lateral approach has the following specific objectives: 

  • Identify relationships between the environment and population responses such as migration timing and rates of survival.  Using these relationships, develop life–cycle models that can help predict the response of endangered salmon populations to climate change (Crozier et al. 2014).
  • Monitor the state of the science in annual syntheses of the global literature on climate effects on salmon (Crozier 2014).
  • Provide scientific support for resource management actions to protect endangered species (McClure et al 2014).
  • Collaborate with other groups on the Pacific coast, the nation, and the world to enhance our resilience to climate variability and climate change.


Crozier, L.   2014.  Impacts of Climate Change on Columbia River Salmon:  A review of the scientific literature published in 2013.  Pages D1-D50 in Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) supplemental biological opinion:  consultation on remand for operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System.  U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Region.

Crozier, L. G., B. J. Burke, B. Sandford, G. Axel, and B. L. Sanderson   2014.  Adult Snake River sockeye salmon passage and survival within and upstream of the Federal Columbia River Power System. Research report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla, Washington.

Crozier, L. G., M. D. Scheuerell, and R. W. Zabel.  2011.  The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Using time series analysis to characterize evolutionary and plastic responses to environmental change: A case study of a shift toward earlier migration date in sockeye salmon.  American Naturalist 178(6):755–773.

Crozier, L. G., R. W. Zabel, and A. F. Hamlett.  2008.  Predicting differential effects of climate change at the population level with life-cycle models of spring Chinook salmon.  Global Change Biology 14(2):236–249.

McClure, M. M., M. Alexander, D. Borggaard, D. Boughton, L. Crozier, R. Griffis, J. C. Jorgensen, S. T. Lindley, J. Nye, M. J. Rowland, E. E. Seney, A. Snover, C. Toole, and K. Van Houtan.   2013.  Incorporating climate science in applications of the U.S. Endangered Species Act for aquatic species.  Conservation Biology 27(6):1222–1233.