Northern fish are tough, but climate change is causing some to dwindle
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
Through the long winter, many have endured cramped, icy quarters with perilously low oxygen levels. Others have recently journeyed incredible distances from large rivers and lakes to small summer habitats upstream.
Northern stream fish come from a long line of hardy adapters. Their ancestors were well equipped to survive multiple ice ages and then go on to colonize some of the coldest newly accessible northern habitats. They thrive in some of the most dynamic conditions on the planet, from short intense summers, with up to 24 hours of sunlight, to long cold winters with limited light and food.
But the survival tools these fish have used for millennia — exceptional tolerance to cold, slow growth rates and long lifespans — could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions in the north warm and more fast-paced species move in.
Our research team set out to see how stream fishes were responding to unprecedented environmental changes across their northern ranges. Ultimately, we wanted to know how these changes might affect the hundreds of thousands of people in Alaska and northern Canada that rely on local fisheries for food, culture and economic security.
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