Predicting differential effects of climate change at the population level with life-cycle models of spring Chinook salmon


Crozier, L.G., Zabel, R.W., Hamlet, A.F.  2008. Predicting differential effects of climate change at the population level with life-cycle models of spring Chinook salmon. Global Change Biology 14(2): 236-249, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01497.x.


Habitat conditions mediate the effects of climate, so neighboring populations with differing habitat conditions may differ in their responses to climate change. We have previously observed that juvenile survival in Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon is strongly correlated with summer temperature in some populations and with fall streamflow in others. Here, we explore potential differential responses of the viability of four of these populations to changes in streamflow and temperature that might result from climate change. First, we linked predicted changes in air temperature and precipitation from several General Circulation Models to a local hydrological model to project streamflow and air temperature under two climate-change scenarios. Then, we developed a stochastic, density-dependent life-cycle model with independent environmental effects in juvenile and ocean stages, and parameterized the model for each population. We found that mean abundance decreased 20-50% and the probability of quasi-extinction increased dramatically (from 0.1-0.4 to 0.3-0.9) for all populations in both scenarios. Differences between populations were greater in the more moderate climate scenario than in the more extreme, hot/dry scenario. Model results were relatively robust to realistic uncertainty in freshwater survival parameters in all scenarios. Our results demonstrate that detailed population models can usefully incorporate climate-change predictions, and that global warming poses a direct threat to freshwater stages in these fish, increasing their risk of extinction. Because differences in habitat may contribute to the individualistic population responses we observed, we infer that maintaining habitat diversity will help buffer some species from the impacts of climate change.