During a drought, streams dry up and slow to a trickle. And salmon struggle to survive.


Salmon depend on cool, flowing water. When creek flow levels drop and water temperatures rise, salmon grow more slowly, and are more susceptible to parasites and disease.

Frank Burris, with Oregon State University, works on stream restoration projects that help reverse the damage.

Sometimes it’s as simple as planting trees around a creek, providing shade to cool the water.

Burris: “Historically, these areas were almost entirely wooded … everything was shaded.”

In one place, conservationists increased the amount of water flowing into a stream salmon use for spawning. They filled in ditches in a wetland that had been drained for pastureland. Burris says that raised the surrounding groundwater by nearly three feet – enough to keep water flowing into the stream all summer.

Burris predicts that measures like these will prove even more useful as droughts become more frequent with climate change.

Burris: “It can kind of buy us some water in the bank, so to speak, for those times when climate change may affect streams more than it is now.”

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For a region heavily dependent upon salmon fishing, this investment in water efficiency is likely to pay off.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Salmon photo: Copyright protected.

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...