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Reconnecting Social and Ecological Resilience in Salmon Ecosystems

Daniel L. Bottom, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Kim K. Jones, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Charles A Simenstad, University of Washington
Courtland L Smith, Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University

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Fishery management programs designed to control Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) for optimum production have failed to prevent widespread fish population decline and have caused greater uncertainty for salmon, their ecosystems, and the people who depend upon them. In this special feature introduction, we explore several key attributes of ecosystem resilience that have been overlooked by traditional salmon management approaches. The dynamics of salmon ecosystems involve social–ecological interactions across multiple scales that create difficult mismatches with the many jurisdictions that manage fisheries and other natural resources. Of particular importance to ecosystem resilience are large-scale shifts in oceanic and climatic regimes or in global economic conditions that unpredictably alter social and ecological systems. Past management actions that did not account for such changes have undermined salmon population resilience and increased the risk of irreversible regime shifts in salmon ecosystems. Because salmon convey important provisioning, cultural, and supporting services to their local watersheds, widespread population decline has undermined both human well-being and ecosystem resilience. Strengthening resilience will require expanding habitat opportunities for salmon populations to express their maximum life-history variation. Such actions also may benefit the “response diversity” of local communities by expanding the opportunities for people to express diverse social and economic values. Reestablishing social–ecological connections in salmon ecosystems will provide important ecosystem services, including those that depend on clean water, ample stream flows, functional wetlands and floodplains, intact riparian systems, and abundant fish populations.

Key words

fishery management; Pacific Northwest; Pacific salmon; resilience; salmon ecosystem
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087