Northwest Environmental Training Center (NWETC)

Pacific Salmonids: Ecology


Salmonids, including Pacific salmon and trout, are an important component of ecologic and economic health in western North America. Salmon and trout of the Pacific Coast have continued to evolve in the face of natural disturbances such as floods, fires, volcanoes, wind-throw and disease. In fact, these influences have helped these species maintain their resiliency. Even when natural disturbances have been severe their effects have remained localized, thereby allowing ecosystems to more easily recover. However, the magnitude of human-caused disturbances may be so great that irreversible changes will occur by increasing the impact that natural disturbances have on aquatic communities, resulting in both acute and chronic consequences for salmonids. Moreover, the changes that human activities create may be so widespread that the recovery of individual ecosystems and their components, including salmonid stocks, could be drastically altered. While each salmonid is unique, the genetic diversity within species across drainages may be as significant as those found across different species. Despite this variety, salmonid stream management, recovery and protection initiatives rely on certain fundamental biological requirements.

This course will provide general information regarding:

  • Origins and evolution of Pacific North American Salmon;
  • Life stages of salmon and trout in both coastal and inland streams;
  • The habitat requirements applicable to each life stage;
  • Substrate quality and hydraulic flow affecting spawning behavior and redd success;
  • How habitat features, in-stream complexity, bank structure and large woody debris influence success of salmonids at different life-stages;
  • How water chemistry, water temperature and food availability affect trout and salmon behavior; and
  • How migration patterns can be impeded or enhanced by changes in flow, water quality, barriers or obstacles

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