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Assessing riverside corridors — the ‘escape routes’ for animals under climate change — in the Northwest

A black bear walks along the South Fork Flathead River in Montana.

Under climate change, plants and animals will shift their habitats to track the conditions they are adapted for. As they do, the lands surrounding rivers and streams offer natural migration routes that will take on a new importance as temperatures rise. An open-access study led by the University of Washington pinpoints which riverside routes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana will be the most important for animals trying to navigate a changing climate. 

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Many Arctic lakes give off less carbon than expected

Northeast Alaska’s Yukon Flats region, seen with fall colors.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. One consequence of that trend is the thawing of permafrost, a layer of earth that has remained frozen for thousands of years in some areas. This frozen soil and vegetation currently holds more than twice the carbon found in the atmosphere. As permafrost across northern Alaska, Canada, Siberia and other high-latitude regions thaws, microbes in the soil consume organic materials, releasing carbon dioxide or methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas, into lakes and the atmosphere. 

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Sockeye carcasses tossed on shore over two decades spur tree growth

UW researchers walk along Hansen Creek in 2015.

For 20 years, dozens of University of Washington researchers have walked Hansen Creek — home to one of the densest sockeye salmon runs in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region — every day during spawning season, counting live salmon and recording information about the fish that died. After counting a dead fish — an inevitability here, either after spawning or in the paws of a brown bear — researchers throw it on shore to remove the carcass and not double-count it the next day. 

Read more at UW Today »

Largest Chinook salmon disappearing from West Coast

Chinook salmon, shorter in length than in earlier years, swim in Oregon’s McKenzie River.

The largest and oldest Chinook salmon — fish also known as “kings” and prized for their exceptional size — have mostly disappeared along the West Coast. That’s the main finding of a new University of Washington-led study published Feb. 27 in the journal Fish and Fisheries. The researchers analyzed nearly 40 years of data from hatchery and wild Chinook populations from California to Alaska, looking broadly at patterns that emerged over the course of four decades and across thousands of miles of coastline. 

Read more at UW Today »