Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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The role of environmental processes in structuring the distribution of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitats across a large Alaska river basin


June 2013 - June 2018


Chinook salmon are an important subsistence, sport-fishing, and ecological resource in Alaska. Poor adult returns in recent years have resulted in fishery closures, leading to social and economic hardships for subsistence and sport users. Unfortunately, the mechanism(s) driving these declines are poorly understood. Uncertainty surrounding sources of mortality and their relative importance across life stages, habitat (e.g., freshwater vs. estuarine or ocean), and time is a major contributing factor. The objectives of this research are to, 1) develop spatially continuous metrics that describe historic, current, and future flow and temperature regimes within the Chena River basin and, 2) project derived flow and temperature metrics into the future under climate change scenarios in the context of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitat requirements and processes influencing juvenile mortality. A better understanding of past and contemporary relationships among hydrologic and thermal regimes and spawning and rearing habitat quality for Chinook salmon will greatly improve our ability to predict future states, and ultimately prioritize conservation and management action under a changing climate. Funding for this project has been provided by the State of Alaska.

Research Products and Activities


  • Falke, J.A., Benda, L., and F. J. Adams. 2013. Chena River basin landscape-scale freshwater physical habitat studies. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Fairbanks, AK, 7-11 October 2013.
  • Falke, J.A., Martin, A. N., and B. M. Huntsman. 2014. Chena River basin juvenile Chinook salmon and physical habitat studies (2013-2016). Yukon Basin Interagency Fisheries Meeting. April 18, 2014. Fairbanks, AK.
  • Huntsman, B.M., Falke, J.A., Saveride, J., and K. Bennett. 2015. Density-dependent and -independent mechanisms influencing spawning habitat selection by Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Chena River basin, Alaska. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Homer, Alaska, 4-6 November 2015

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 4

Masters Students: 5

Phd Students: 5

Post Docs: 2

University Staff: 2

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 23

Scientific Publications: 123

Presentations: 204



Funding Agencies

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • State of Alaska/Alaska Department of Fish and Game


Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. U.S. Geological Survey
  4. University of Alaska Fairbanks
  5. Wildlife Management Institute