The role of environmental processes in structuring the distribution of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitats across a large Alaska river basin.

Project Description

Chinook salmon are an important subsistence, sport-fishing, and ecological resource in Alaska. Poor adult returns in recent years have resulted in fishery closures, leading to social and economic hardships for subsistence and sport users. Unfortunately, the mechanism(s) driving these declines are poorly understood. Uncertainty surrounding sources of mortality and their relative importance across life stages, habitat (e.g., freshwater vs. estuarine or ocean), and time is a major contributing factor. The objectives of this research are to, 1) develop spatially continuous metrics that describe historic, current, and future flow and temperature regimes within the Chena River basin and, 2) project derived flow and temperature metrics into the future under climate change scenarios in the context of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitat requirements and processes influencing juvenile mortality. A better understanding of past and contemporary relationships among hydrologic and thermal regimes and spawning and rearing habitat quality for Chinook salmon will greatly improve our ability to predict future states, and ultimately prioritize conservation and management action under a changing climate.

Project Funding

State of Alaska/Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Start Date: 0000-00-00
End Date: 0000-00-00


Publications and products

Huntsman, B., Falke, J., Savereide, J., and K. Bennett. (2015). "Density-dependent and –independent mechanisms influencing Chinook salmon population dynamics within the Chena River basin". Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Annual Research Review. March 25, 2015. Fairbanks, AK.

Huntsman, B. M., Falke, J. A., Saveride, J., and K. Bennett. (2015). "Density-dependent and -independent mechanisms influencing spawning habitat selection by Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Chena River basin, Alaska". Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting. November 4-6, 2015. Homer, AK.


Research Team

Jeffrey Falke

Principal Investigator


  • Freshwater fish ecology and conservation biology
  • Landscape and spatial ecology of freshwater systems
  • Ecology and evolutionary biology of salmonids
  • Climate change impacts on aquatic systems
  • Impacts of introducted species on native aquatic fauna

Research Staff

Brock Huntsman
Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology
New Mexico State University