Foodwebs and Fish

Can salmon eat their way out of climate change?

Warm waters are a threat to coldwater fish such as salmon and trout. A recent study by CalTrout and UC Davis researchers found that having access to abundant food can help offset higher temperatures for fish, but there’s a catch.

“Fish can’t just eat their way out of it,” Robert Lusardi said, CalTrout and UC Davis Coldwater Fisheries Scientist. “It’s to a point. The temperature and food offset each other, and both are really important. I think the implications of this study are that fish can do well if there’s enough food and there are slight increases in water temperature associated with climate change.”

Productive habitats like spring-fed rivers, floodplains, estuaries, and seasonal lagoons will be key links that give coldwater fish like salmon and trout a leg up.

Science into Action

More food means a better chance of survival in the face of climate change. 

Growing Fish Food on the Floodplains. CalTrout’s Fish Food on Floodplain Farm Fields is using innovative solutions to reintegrate food from the floodplain back to the river. Research shows that floodplains produce resources 150 times greater than in the river. We work with farmers to grow food on the flooded farm fields and transfer those resources back to the river where fish can access them. 

Conducting Experiments in the Shasta River. Researchers reared juvenile Coho salmon in a series of enclosures within the Shasta River basin, which is a tributary to the Klamath River. They examined how natural gradients in temperature and prey availability affected summer growth rates and survival. Learn more about their study.

Integrate Wild Fish and Working Landscapes

For our native species to not just survive but thrive, we are investing in innovative ways to balance the needs of fish and people by reestablishing resilient wild fish populations within managed landscapes.

Learn more