California storms are devastating endangered salmon


The torrential downpours and flooding we’ve seen lately might be good for the parched, drought-stricken lands of California, but it’s disastrous for endangered salmon.

In the North Bay, creeks are muddy and swirling, raging torrents that destroy neatly-laid salmon eggs and provide no shelter for salmon coming in to spawn.

“We have eggs that were just recently laid in Lagunitas Creek and other tributaries which have gotten washed away,” said Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist with the Marin Municipal Water District. “We also have fish prepared to go into the ocean which hatched a year ago, and they are struggling to find refuge from the high flows.”

Central California Coast Coho salmon are a critically endangered subspecies. Historically, they thrived in creeks that ran through dense redwood forests, hiding from the elements in pools formed by downed branches, trunks and vegetation. But now that much of the redwoods have been decimated, these salmon are more vulnerable to floods and droughts.

It’s a different story in the South Bay, where the native species, steelhead trout, haven’t come in yet to spawn in great numbers. There, a good flushing every few years helps clear out the fine sediments and debris in creeks.

“Hopefully we’ll have some fine sediment moved and the gravel should be clear, making better spawning habitat for the fish,” said Michelle Leicester, senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The flows should be relatively stable in some places, but we’re just coming off five years of drought and ground water tables in the south bay are very depleted. It will take a few good storms to replenish the ground water tables.”

She said storms later in the season will have a bigger impact on the steelhead population.Back in the North Bay, great efforts are underway to further restore the endangered coho salmon population.

LINK (via: SF Gate)

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