restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat in the Pacific Northwest has
focused largely on rural areas dominated by agricultural and forested lands,
but researchers increasingly are looking at the impact of urban areas on the
well-being of these fish.
areas – and even small towns – can have a major impact on the waterways
carrying fish, researchers say, but many progressive cities are taking steps to
mitigate these effects. The issues, policies and impacts of urban areas on
salmon, steelhead and trout are the focus of a new book, “Wild Salmonids in the
Urbanizing Pacific Northwest,” published by Springer.
influx of contaminants and toxic chemicals are two of the most obvious impacts,
researchers say, but urban areas can heat rivers, alter stream flows and have a
number of impacts, according to Carl Schreck, a professor of fisheries and
wildlife at Oregon State University and a contributing author on the book.
of the biggest issues with cities and towns is that they have huge areas of
compacted surfaces,” Schreck pointed out. “Instead of gradually being absorbed
into the water table where the ground can act as a sponge and a filter, precipitation
is funneled directly into drains and then quickly finds its way into river
urban areas can do something about it,” Schreck added, “and Portland is very
avant-garde. They’ve put in permeable substrate in many areas, they’ve used
pavers instead of pavement, and the city boasts a number of rain gardens, roof
eco-gardens and bioswales. When it comes to looking for positive ways to
improve water conditions, Portland is one of the greenest cities in the world.”
origin of the “Wild Salmonids” book began in 1997, when the Oregon Legislature
established the Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team to address natural
resource issues. In 2010, the group – co-chaired by Schreck – created a report
for Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Legislature that provided an in-depth
look at the issues and policies affecting salmonid success in Oregon and the
influence of urban areas. That report was so well-accepted by Oregon
communities, the researchers wrote a book aimed at the public.
new book, “Wild Salmonids in the Urbanizing Pacific Northwest,” is available
from Springer at: http://bit.ly/J5Dn8x. Dozens of scientists
contributed to the book, which was edited by Kathleen Maas-Hebner and Robert
Hughes of OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Alan Yeakley of
Portland State University, who was senior editor.
of the things we’re trying to do is add the social dimension to the science,”
said Maas-Hebner, a senior research scientist and one of the editors of the
book. “The science is important, but the policies and the restoration efforts
of communities are a huge part of improving conditions for fish.”
Northwest residents are unaware of some of the everyday ways in which human
activities can affect water quality and conditions, and thus fish
survivability. Products from lawn fertilizers to shampoos eventually make their
way into rivers and can trigger algal blooms. Even septic tanks can leach into
the groundwater and contribute the byproducts of our lives.
can get caffeine, perfume and sunblock from our groundwater,” Schreck said.
“The water that flows from our cities has traces of birth control pills,
radiation from medical practice, medical waste, deodorants and disinfectants.
We could go on all day. Suffice it to say these things are not usually good for
most effective strategy to combat the problem may be to reduce the use of
contaminants through education and awareness, and ban problematic ingredients,
for example, are no longer used in laundry detergents,” she said. “Fertilizer
and pesticide users can reduce the amounts that get into rivers simply by
following application instructions; many homeowners over-apply them.”
hazard of urban areas is blocking fish passage through small, natural
waterways. Many streams that once meandered are channeled into pipe-like
waterways, and some culverts funnel water in ways that prevent fish from
passing through, Schreck said.
the water velocity becomes too high, some fish simply can’t or won’t go through
the culvert,” said Schreck, who in 2007 received the Presidential Meritorious
Rank Award from the White House for his fish research. “Some cities, including
Salem, Ore., are beginning to use new and improved culverts to aid fish
tactics can also help. Smaller communities, including Florence, Ore., offer
incentives to developers for maintaining natural vegetation along waterways,
the researchers say.
the mitigation efforts of many Northwest cities and towns, urban hazards are
increasing for fish. One of the biggest problems, according to researchers, is
that no one knows what effects the increasing number of chemicals humans create
may have on fish.
are literally thousands of new chemical compounds being produced every year and
while we may know the singular effects of a few of them, many are unknown,”
Schreck said. “The mixture of these different compounds can result in a
‘chemical cocktail’ of contaminants that may have impacts beyond those that
singular compounds may offer. We just don’t know.
research is well behind the production of these new chemicals,” Schreck added,
“and that is a concern.”