Points principaux du projet

The Kenai Lowlands region of the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska covers roughly 9400 square km.
The watersheds of this region support abundant salmon that underpin sport fisheries and millions of dollars in economic activity related to commercial salmon fisheries. The food security and cultural identity of many residents all depend on abundant and reliable salmon populations.
Over the past 15+ years, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Dennis Whigham has collaborated with Coowe Walker of the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR), Ryan King of Baylor University (BU) and Mark Rains of the University of South Florida (USF). The collaboration has resulted in research that shows the important ecological relationships between elements of the landscape like local plants and how many young salmon there are in the streams.
The continued existence of resilient salmon populations, particularly on lands like the Kenai Lowlands that lack state or federal conservation status, will require Alaskans to decide what investments they need to make to ensure they can sustainably support the goods and services provided by the landscape.
Scientists are studying the ecosystem at all levels, from GIS-based studies of the entire landscape to specific studies looking at fish, plant life, wetlands, and the cycling of chemicals through streams and groundwater.
They've discovered alder trees are critical for supplying streams with nitrogen, a nutrient young salmon need to thrive. More than 60% of the nitrogen in the bodies of young salmon comes from land. Equally important are abundant wetlands, which can both provide carbon to streams to support aquatic food webs and store carbon to combat climate change.

Alaska is one of the few remaining places on Earth where sustainable management of salmon is possible, even in the face of wide-ranging threats including overharvesting and climate change. In the Kenai Lowlands region of southern Alaska, most of the landscape and watersheds are currently intact and connected, supporting abundant salmon populations. However, growing human populations, few government regulations, and uncertainties from climate change create uncertainty for the future of the landscape that supports salmon streams.  

The Smithsonian is part of a collaborative network conducting scientific research to understand how to best protect the future of salmon in this region. They're conveying this information to local communities, so that they can make informed decisions that impact salmon-supporting habitats. Smithsonian science is supporting not only the salmon, but also the local economies and communities that depend on them.