A review of the likely effects of climate change on anadromous Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and brown trout Salmo trutta, with particular reference to water temperature and flow

by B. Jonsson and N. Jonsson

Journal of Fish Biology. Volume 75


The present paper reviews the effects of water temperature and flow on migrations, embryonic development, hatching, emergence, growth and life-history traits in light of the ongoing climate change with emphasis on anadromous Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and brown trout Salmo trutta. The expected climate change in the Atlantic is for milder and wetter winters, with more precipitation falling as rain and less as snow, decrease in ice-covered periods and frequent periods with extreme weather. Overall, thermal limits for salmonids are species specific. Scope for activity and growth and optimal temperature for growth increase with temperature to an optimal point before constrain by the oxygen content of the water. The optimal temperature for growth decreases with increasing fish size and varies little among populations within species, whereas the growth efficiency may be locally adapted to the temperature conditions of the home stream during the growth season. Indirectly, temperature influences age and size at smolting through its effect on growth. Time of spawning, egg hatching and emergence of the larvae vary with temperature and selective effects on time of first feeding. Traits such as age at first maturity, longevity and fecundity decrease with increasing temperature whilst egg size increases with temperature. Water flow influences the accessibility of rivers for returning adults and speed of both upstream and downstream migration. Extremes in water flow and temperature can decrease recruitment and survival. There is reason to expect a northward movement of the thermal niche of anadromous salmonids with decreased production and population extinction in the southern part of the distribution areas, migrations earlier in the season, later spawning, younger age at smolting and sexual maturity and increased disease susceptibility and mortality. Future research challenges are summarized at the end of the paper.

Buy full article