Researcher Studies Rising Abundance of Pink Salmon in North Pacific Ocean

Research by University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Alan Springer has found a correlation between increased abundance of pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean and declining abundance at breeding sites of another species in Australia.

Springer’s research, published in May in Journal, proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean have flourished since the 1970s, with growth in wild populations augmented by rising hatchery production. As their abundance has grown so has evidence that they are having effects on other species and on ocean ecosystems.

Springer’s study showed that in alternating years of high abundance, they can initiate pelagic trophic cascades in the northern North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea and depress the availability of common prey resources of other salmon, resident seabirds and other pelagic species.

Spring and other authors of the study found a correlation between the increasing abundance of pink salmon and declining abundance and productivity at breeding sites in southeastern Australia of short-tailed shearwaters, a bird that migrates from nesting grounds in the South Pacific Ocean to wintering grounds in the North Pacific Ocean.

The researchers said they can view the biennial pulses of pink salmon as a large, replicated, natural experiment that offers opportunities to better learn how these ecosystems function. By exploring trophic interaction chains driven by pink salmon, they said they may achieve a deeper conservation conscientiousness for northern open oceans.