Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chum salmon,Oncorhynchus keta, in Chuckanut Creek

Editors note: yesterday I stopped by Chuckanut Creek as it ran through Arroyo Park.  The stream in south Bellingham runs literally yards in places from the road. Please double click on any photo to enlarge it for better viewing.  Enjoy the view.
all photos ©Paul Anderson

Chum salmon return after 3 years to their original birth streams to spawn, die and provide nutrients to the food chain that will sustain their offspring as they emerge from the egg, grow into fry and make their way back down Chuckanut Creek and into the Salish Sea.

The salmon will wait weeks or even months sometimes for rains to raise water levels. Their route took the salmon up riffles and across shallows that sometimes left their bodies 1/2 exposed.  A Bald Eagle chattered from a near by tree and carcasses were seen dozens of yards from the stream.

It's important in small shallow streams like this that they are left in their natural states.  Debris is important. Fallen trees create pools that provide resting areas. Stands of trees and vegetation along the stream provide protection, preventing silting, keep the stream cooler in warmer weather and slowly releases the water year round.

In some spots viable channels for moving upstream are literally inches wide and meander between boulders, sand and gravel bars, tufts of grasses, shrubs, and downed trees and logs.

The salmon reach the gravel beds and build nests or redds - literally just small depressions in the gravel - before laying eggs and fertilizing. Soon the salmon die and their bodies are used as nutrients for  zooplankton and insects that their offspring will feed on as the next generation make their way back to the Salish Sea.

In todays Sunday Seattle Times there is an article about chum salmon returning to Piper Creek and passing through Carkeek Park on Seattle's north side.  The Department of Public Works, to prevent excessive flooding and scouring of the stream bed - ruining any chance for salmon recovery- is spending tax money to build retention ponds that will receive runoff from city streets, parking lots and other impermeable surfaces.  The forest does that already. It is a classic example of an ecosystem service.

When bad forestry practices and excessive clear cutting takes place in watersheds feeding these streams where salmon protection is required, these free ecosystem services provided by nature is negated and it becomes a free taxpayer subsidy to the forestry industry.  

Where would be the fairness be in all of that? 

No comments:

Post a Comment