Droughts, climate change, and dams: Reconciling a future for California’s native fishes
Dr. Peter Moyle lays out a statewide aquatic conservation strategy for saving California’s native fishes in the face of climate change
By Maven/Maven’s Notebook
“I want to start out talking about the drought and native fishes and why this is an issue, and then bring in climate change, because the drought today is doing what we expect climate change to do in the long run, and it is making it much more difficult for fish to survive,” Dr. Moyle began. “Being an optimistic person, I really want to talk about what we can do, describe a conservation strategy of sorts, and then put this in the context of something I’m very fond of these days, which is reconciliation ecology.”
The entire state is in a moderate to exceptional drought for the third year, and entering a fourth year of drought. “You may remember from 2013 to 2014, we went a whole year with virtually no rain, and this was all very hard on the fish as you might expect,” he said.
“What does this drought really mean for the fish in general of California?” he said. “There is less water below dams, and the water is below the dams is warmer as well. This is because there is less water to release. If you cut back on downstream demands for water, you will release less water from the dams, and generally from a fish perspective, what you want are the dams to be releasing water from as deep down in their pool as they can so the water is fairly cold.”
“It also means there’s habitat loss and fragmentation as small streams dry up and as they lose their connection to other streams,” he said.