Examining the watershed-scale spatial distribution of cold water refugia in an Atlantic salmon river basin

The Atlantic salmon is unable to regulate its body temperature, and is therefore at risk from the negative effects of climate change. During summer heatwaves when river water exceeds 23°, Atlantic salmon become thermally stressed and move into small cold water patches in order to survive. These patches are known as ‘thermal refugia’ and are thought to be significant in allowing salmon to survive increased water temperatures. Although thermal refugia have been studied in the past, previous research has only looked at the behaviour of fish around isolated cold water patches, and no-one has conducted a detailed study analysing the distribution of thermal refugia within an entire watershed and their effect on salmon populations. This project intends to document the distribution of refugia present within the Restigouche River watershed with a view to aiding scientists understand how climate change may alter these important cold water patches that are key in ensuring the survival of salmon.

Stephen Dugdale
Faculty Supervisor: 
Dr. Normand Bergeron