Is it a bad sign when your state is considering plans to store cold water behind dams so that global warming doesn’t kill 82% of the native fish?
A study by researchers at the University of California, Davis predicted that warmer water from climate change—over the course of 100 years—would have a devastating effect on native fish, including Delta smelt, Central Valley Chinook salmon and Kern River rainbow trout, if current trends continue. But only 19% of non-native fish would be similarly threatened.
The peer-reviewed study, which considered the fate of California’s 121 native fish species and 50 non-native species, was published last month in the online journal PLOS ONE.
“If present trends continue, much of the unique California fish fauna will disappear and be replaced by alien fishes, such as carp, largemouth bass, fathead minnows and green sunfish,” said Peter Moyle, a professor of fish biology at UC Davis and one of the researchers.
Climate change does not seem to hold much in the way of “good news, bad news” for native fish. “No native fishes are likely to benefit from climate change,” according to the study. Scientists were not surprised. They already knew native fish were susceptible to warmer water and that non-native fish were more adaptable.
Moyle told the Sacramento Bee that some species might benefit from storing colder water in reservoirs behind dams and maybe salmon might be given more access to colder areas above dams. But some species, too far away from colder sources, are doomed. “The prognosis for Delta smelt, frankly, is just not very good,” Moyle said.
Three of the fish listed by researchers among the Top 10 most vulnerable species are already considered threatened or endangered. They are listed below with asterisks: