Teasing apart the elements of Puget Sound rivers that matter most to fish, researchers have found that one of the best ways to recover threatened Chinook salmon may be to restore the winding side channels that once gave young fish essential rearing habitat and refuge from high winter flows. Models were based on fine-scale river mapping and tracking salmon populations across Puget Sound. They showed that habitat restoration projects in the Cedar River southeast of Seattle could boost the number of young Chinook salmon produced by each spawning adult by adding side channel habitat. Additional side channels and other habitat improvements also appear to help stabilize salmon numbers, making them less vulnerable to flooding or other extreme conditions that may come more often with climate change.

Restoring side channels can boost salmon recovery in Puget Sound rivers, new research finds

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