Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alaska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alaska Project

Temperature, phenology, and embryo survival in Western Alaska sockeye salmon populations: the potential for adaptation to a warming world?

July 2014 - May 2016


Participating Agencies

  • FWS Anchorage AK
Morgan Sparks collects gametes from Iliamna Lake, Alaska sockeye salmon.

Rapidly warming water temperatures associated with climate change represent a substantial disturbance to the habitat of aquatic ectothermic organisms. For salmonid fishes, early life history survival and timing of reproduction and development are closely tied to temperature, such that altered thermal regimes could alter patterns of survival or shift phenology into a mismatch with the environment. Because temperature is the dominant driver of developmental rates, empirical statistical models have been developed to predict the timing of hatching and fry emergence based on average incubation temperature, but the effect of thermal variability (commonly observed in natural systems and predicted to increase with climate change) has not been incorporated into these models. This project was a collaboration between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Washington, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. The results of this study indicated that the effects of climate change during salmon early life history stages may be buffered by phenotypic plasticity and variability in populations and habitats will be important to conserve to maintain diversity in the face of climate change.

Research Publications Publication Date
Sparks, M.M., Falke, J.A., Westley, P.A.H., Adkison, M.D., Bartz, K., Quinn, T.P., Schindler, D.E., and D. Young. 2019. Influences of spawning timing, water temperature, and climatic warming on early life history phenology in western Alaska sockeye salmon. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 76:123-135. March 2019
Sparks, M.M., Westley, P.A.H., Falke, J.A., and T.P. Quinn. 2017. The role of thermal adaptation and phenotypic plasticity for responding to a warming world: insights from common garden experiments in Alaskan sockeye salmon. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13782 December 2017
Presentations Presentation Date
Sparks, M., Westley, P., Falke, J., and M. Adkison. 2015. Predicting Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) hatch timing by incorporating natural variability into an existing model. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Homer, Alaska, 4-6 November, 2015. November 2015