Assessing Effectiveness of Salmon Habitat Restoration

Billions of dollars have been spent to restore salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest, yet we do not fully understand which techniques and strategies are most effective.  This long-term project seeks to assesses the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a variety of salmon habitat restoration projects, including commonly used techniques and potentially innovative approaches intended to enhance physical habitat and cool stream temperatures in rivers affected by human land use and climate change.

Collaborators:  Jen O’Neal (Natural Systems Design); Treva Coe and Michael Maudlin (Nooksack Indian Tribe); Martin Liermann (NOAA Fisheries)

Funding: Washington Sea Grant; Natural Systems Design; Tetra Tech; WWU




Predator-Prey Dynamics of Bear and Salmon at McNeil Falls, Alaska

Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) provide an essential food source for bears (Ursus arctos).  In turn, foraging by bears exerts significant influence on salmon populations.  These interactions also affect broader ecosystemic processes by facilitating the transfer of marine-derived nutrients from spawning streams to the surrounding landscape.  This project investigates factors affecting the foraging success of individual bears at McNeil Falls, Alaska.

Collaborators:  Ian Gill (WWU); Larry Aumiller and Ted Otis (Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game); Tom Quinn (Univ. of Washington)

Funding: National Geographic Society/Waitt Institute; Friends of McNeil River; Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game; National Park Service; WWU

Photos in National Geographic




Dendrochemical Reconstruction of Historic Salmon Escapements

This project tests the viability of dendrochemical analyses as a technique for measuring nutrient contributions from spawning Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus  spp.) to streamside forests.  In addition to expanding our understanding of processes governing nutrient cycling in coastal river systems, the ultimate objective of this research is to quantify historical salmon abundances, and in so doing help guide restoration efforts in rivers where salmon populations have declined

Collaborators:  Jody Gerdts and Andy Bunn (WWU); Peter Jenkins (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service); Hal Michael (Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)

Funding: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Puget Sound Anglers; International Women’s Fishing Association; WWU




Effects of Land Use and Hypoxia on Salish Sucker populations in British Columbia and Washington

The Salish sucker (Catostomus sp.). is a relatively unknown member of the Catostomid family of fishes found only in western Washington and southwest British Columbia.  Listed as endangered in Canada, the Salish sucker is believed to be at risk of extirpation due in part to land use practices that have impacted stream habitat and water quality.  This project investigates the effects of summer hypoxia on Salish sucker abundance and distribution, and the dominant mechanisms causing hypoxia in Salish sucker habitat, including the relationship between patterns of land use and water quality on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

Collaborators:  Nate Lundgren (WWU); Mike Pearson (Canada National Recovery Team for Salish Sucker and Nooksack Dace); Jordan Rosenfeld (British Columbia Ministry of Environment); John Richardson (Univ. of British Columbia)

Funding: WWU Border Policy Research Institute




Emergent Contaminants and Potential Impacts on Juvenile Salmon in the Stillaguamish Watershed

Emerging contaminants include chemical and microbial contaminants from municipal and, agricultural wastewater that have not historically been considered or regulated as environmental contaminants. This project is part of a basin-wide assessment of the presence, source and transport of emergent contaminants and their potential impacts on juvenile salmon in the Stillaguamish River. The goals of this work are to elucidate the effects of emergent contaminants on salmonid fish populations and to support the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians in their ongoing efforts to recover Stillaguamish Chinook salmon.


Collaborators: Jody Pope (WWU); Jennifer Sevigny (Stillaguamish Tribe DNR); Patrick Moran and Richard Wagner (US Geological Survey)


Funding: Stillaguamish Tribe; US Geological Survey




Predicting Floodplain Vegetation Response to Dam Removal on the Elwha River, Washington

The removal of two dams on the Elwha River, scheduled for 2012, will be the largest dam removal project ever undertaken in the United States. Dam removal is expected to restore what was once one of the most productive salmon streams in Washington state, restoring access to more than 70 miles of protected habitat within Olympic National Park.  This project investigates potential responses of native and invasive floodplain plant species to exposure and redistribution of reservoir sediments following dam removal.

Collaborators:  Jamie Michel and David Hooper (WWU); Rebecca Brown (Eastern Washington Univ.); Pat Shafroth (U.S. Geological Survey); Josh Chenoweth (National Park Service)

Funding: National Park Service North Coast and Cascades Research Learning Network; Gravity Environmental, Inc.; WWU

Elwha project web page




Restoration of the Vindel and Pite Rivers, Sweden

Rivers throughout Sweden have been channelized to facilitate timber floating.  In recent years, local authorities have begun to restore channelized streams to improve habitat for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), sea trout (S. trutta) and greyling (Thymallus thymallus).  This project investigates the effects of restoring natural flow regimes on the diversity and species composition of riparian plant communities.

Collaborators:  Christer Nilsson; Roland Jansson; Johanna Engström; Björn Malmqvist; (Umeå Univ.); Daniel Palm (Swedish Univ. of Agricultural Sciences); Samantha Capon (Monash Univ.); Daniel Holmqvist; Tommy Stenlund; Stig Westberg (Vindelälvens Fiskeråd); J. Isaakson (Pite Älv Ekononomisk Förening); Jamie Michel (WWU)

Funding: Kempe Foundation; Swedish Environmental Protection Agency; WWU

Umeå Univ. Landscape Ecology Group home page








Mar. 2011