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In early December, floods devastated many communities here in Washington state. What are the impacts on salmon from such flooding?
Professor Salmon’s response:
Flooding creates many dangers for salmon, just as it does for humans.
Toxins washed from flooded sites can kill salmon and can change their DNA. Also, salmon can become disoriented as the water recedes.
The impacts of flooding are particularly harsh in settled areas. In a completely natural watershed, the impacts on humans, salmon and their habitat are far less severe.
Insurance and dykes has given us false security and lead us to make unwise land use decisions. The wisest thing humans can do is to NOT build on the flood plain. Dyking and culverting will not protect us, and climate change is making these works less effective.
Instead, we can farm on flood plains, grow good food and forests, and live on the lower slopes. This allows the natural watershed function of soil renewal and water cleansing to take place. It will protect our water supply and keep it clean and cool, and we will not get harmed nor our homes destroyed. We can take our animals and pets to higher ground during flooding events, as humans have for thousand of years.
We are touched that your class cared to ask about the salmon when there was so much human loss associated with this flood disaster. One way to explore this sad topic with young students is to ask them what impacts they experienced and know about, and explain that the salmon had very similar impacts. Children who want to help salmon can volunteer for a stream clean up or planting project with a local Streamkeeper group. Maybe the school can start one!
Our warm wishes and kind thoughts for you and your community as you complete your recovery efforts.