Implications of climate change on flow regime affecting Atlantic salmon
Abstract. The UKCIP02 climate change scenarios (2070–2100) suggest that the UK climate will become warmer (an overall increase of 2.5–3°C), with temperature increases being greater in the summer and autumn than in the spring and winter seasons. In terms of precipitation, winters are expected to become wetter and summers drier throughout the UK. The effect of changes in the future climate on flow regimes are investigated for the Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, in a case study in an upland UK river. Using a hydraulic modelling approach, flows simulated across the catchment are assessed in terms of hydraulic characteristics (discharge per metre width, flow depths, flow velocities and Froude number). These, compared with suitable characteristics published in the literature for various life stages of Atlantic salmon, enable assessment of habitat suitability. Climate change factors have been applied to meteorological observations in the Eden catchment (north-west England) and effects on the flow regime have been investigated using the SHETRAN hydrological modelling system. High flows are predicted to increase by up to 1.5%; yet, a greater impact is predicted from decreasing low flows (e.g. a Q95 at the outlet of the study catchment may decrease to a Q85 flow). Reliability, Resilience and Vulnerability (RRV) analysis provides a statistical indication of the extent and effect of such changes on flows. Results show that future climate will decrease the percentage time the ideal minimum physical habitat requirements will be met. In the case of suitable flow depth for spawning activity at the outlet of the catchment, the percentage time may decrease from 100% under current conditions to 94% in the future. Such changes will have implications for the species under the Habitats Directive and for catchment ecological flow management strategies.