A recent New York Times interactive article documents the changes of glaciers around Washington State and Alaska. The melting of these glaciers has a heavy impact on more than just sea level rise. It impacts salmon spawning, river and stream patterns, and nearby landscapes. Changes to glaciers also impact the nutrient balance and temperature of glacier-fed watersheds. These disruptions can shift a whole ecosystem.
Climate reporter Henry Fountain and photographer Max Whittaker ventured to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to evaluate the impacts of melting glaciers on local ecosystems.
Glacial ecosystems have adapted to fit this cold water environment. As the temperature of the water rises, it becomes more difficult for smaller species to remain in their habitat and could potentially cause them to die out.
The impact on glacial melt on salmon, however, is more complex. Salmon are major income source in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Though temperature is also important to salmon migration and reproduction, there could be some temporary benefits for salmon in terms of glacial melt. The melt brings rocks and boulders that were not in the river bed before, providing excellent spawning sites. Because of this, some areas could actually see an increase in salmon populations.
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