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Researchers measure effects of flow regulation and diking on salmon habitat loss

gic alteration on salmon populations in the tidal-fluvial environment (the area between the estuary and the river) Kukulka and Jay studied the estuarine shallow water habitat, which is known to play a major role in the survival of seaward-migrating juvenile salmon.

"There are few studies on the tidal-fluvial environment," said Jay. "Every river has such an area, and methods used by hydrologists for rivers and oceanographers for estuaries don't work that well. This is also a crucial area for juvenile salmon because many young salmon feed and prepare physiologically and behaviorally in the fresh, shallow waters for a rapid transition to ocean saltwater.

"The Columbia was historically the world's largest producer of Chinook salmon and of all salmon species, Chinook are especially dependent on shallow water habitat," added Jay. "The Columbia has only about 30 miles of estuary, but more than 110 miles of tidal river and none of this area has been studied much."

However, predicting tidal-fluvial water levels poses a challenge, in large part because of the unpredictability of the river flow and hydropower operations. The first part of Kukulka and Jay's study describes a new model of the tides with variable river flow. The second part of the study discusses specific changes within 40 kilometers of shallow water habitat.

The computer model that was developed for the study enabled the scientists to run a 25-year historical case in just a few minutes. "We can run a variety of scenarios with ease," Jay said. "While much more complex models could be used, the fact is that floodplain topography is poorly known and very detailed results might not be very accurate on a point-by-point basis."

The AGU-published studies also are unique from a tidal dynamic point of view, noted Jay. "We showed how tides can be predicted in an environment where there is another major factor (fluctuating river flow) in addition to astronomical factors (the
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Contact: Sydney Clevenger
clevenge@ohsu.edu
503-748-1546
Oregon Health & Science University
23-Sep-2003


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