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Climate Change Could Decimate California’s Native Fish

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A coho salmon in its spawning stage. (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

A coho salmon in its spawning stage. (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Many freshwater fish species are already in decline in California, because of dams, pumping water out of the Delta or habitat loss in urban areas. A new study suggests climate change will make things much worse, driving nearly 100 native species either to extinction, or to very low numbers, by the end of the century.

“This is an issue because, one thing, a lot of these are things like salmon and steelhead,” said Pete Moyle, a fish biologist at UC Davis, and lead author of the study. “The other part of it is that most of these fish are species — or runs of salmon, for example — that are found only in California. So we have a very distinctive fish fauna. And it can’t be replaced.”

In his study, published in PLOS ONE, Moyle found that warmer water temperatures and altered weather patterns are to blame, though some invasive fish stand to benefit from the changes.

The LA Times goes into more detail:

California native fish could disappear with climate changeThe authors of a new study published online in the journal PLOS ONE used 20 metrics — including species population trends, physiological tolerance to temperature increase and ability to disperse — to gauge the vulnerability of native fishes to climate change.

The results: 82% of 121 native species were deemed highly vulnerable.

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About the Author ()

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.
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