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SFU and UBC researchers receive $1.25M to study cumulative effects on B.C. salmon

December 15, 2023
Photo: Watershed Futures Initiative

Salmon researchers from British Columbia are embarking on a three-year study to understand and help mitigate the cumulative threats affecting the vulnerable species in the province’s watersheds.

The Watershed Futures Initiative, which includes researchers from Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and University of Montana, has received $1.25 million from the federal and provincial governments – through the joint British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund – to tackle the combined impacts of logging, mining, urban development, agriculture, climate change and other factors on salmon.
While the devastating effect of these risks are studied in isolation, there is an urgent need to improve both the science and management of cumulative effects in B.C. to prevent a “death by a thousand cuts,” according to project lead Jonathan Moore.
“Many salmon populations are struggling. We are asking a lot of our salmon ecosystems – from logging to water withdrawals to development to climate change,” says SFU biological sciences professor Moore. “It is a large and multi-pronged problem, and we are hoping that this initiative can help contribute to positive steps forward.”
The initiative will address high-priority knowledge gaps. Researchers will explore ongoing changes in salmon watersheds using remote sensing, synthesize scientific information to inform benchmarks and management targets, help identify potential paths forward, and connect groups working to improve the climate resilience of B.C.'s salmon watersheds.
“The effective stewardship of salmon ecosystems entails integrating the best science on cumulative effects with priority management actions and good governance to ensure actions are implemented in a timely and cost-effective manner,” says project co-lead Tara Martin, a professor of forest and conservation sciences at UBC.
In addition to research and recommending policies, building social networks and sharing promising success stories is a key objective of the initiative. This will be achieved through several events that bring together a diverse group of leaders, managers, technicians, and scientists to learn from each other.
“Salmon are of critical importance and they are suffering,” says Robert Chamberlin, chair of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance and a member of the expert advisory panel guiding the project. “Watershed Futures Initiative is tackling the wicked problem of cumulative effects and doing so in a good way.”
In addition to the government funding announced this week, a contribution from the Sitka Foundation is also helping support this work.
See www.watershedfuturesinitiative.com for more information and to subscribe to its monthly newsletter for updates.