What is “Salmon School”?
Salmon School comprises more than 500 salmon-like forms, sculpted from mirrored molten glass, suspended in awe-inspiring formation. This giant salmon shoal will coalesce at COP26 after collecting individual stories from a wide range of communities on how climate change has devastated this once prolific species.
But it also presents a beacon of hope because proven management strategies – developed by these conservation organisations – can turn the tide for a species with iconic status in cultures across our planet.
What are the outcomes we are hoping for?
The shared objective of the MSA partners is to reverse the decline in salmon numbers seen over the past 50 years. The reasons for this decline are complex and a combination of human induced impacts and the effects of rapid climate change. The process that the MSA partners use to identify and prioritise their work is called the Likely Suspect Framework (LSF).
In addition to commissioning its own science led project work the LSF acts as a “filing cabinet” for other research project enabling everyone to share data and information. This process enables stronger outcomes from good science.
By placing wild salmon at the forefront of the climate change debate and identifying them as a Climate Change Adaptation Species we can help provide a range of measures that will reduce or eliminate the impact climate change is having.
Salmon School will help achieve these aims by being far more than an inspirational artwork for delegates to the summit. Displayed in a prominent position at COP26, it will also connect with specific initiatives around the world, educating young people, and energising leaders to implement practical policies for change.
Salmon as a Climate Change Adaptation Species
The decisions and actions we take now will define the future for salmon, whether they survive and thrive, or are added to the growing list of extinct species due to human impact accelerating climate change.
Salmon are a very relevant species to reflect the climate challenges facing our planet, and they illustrate perfectly the opportunity we now have to take decisive action to turn the tide.
Few species traverse our planet in the way that wild salmon do. Born in the highest headwaters, they live for a number of years in our river systems before starting an ocean migration which is one of the great natural wonders of the world.
These small, young fish travel down our rivers, through the coastal zone and out into our oceans in search of food. Migrating thousands of miles, they eventually navigate back to their home rivers to reproduce and die.
Salmon are one of our keystone species – a species that provide food and nutrients for whole ecosystems. Without salmon, these ecosystems will wither, with a catastrophic loss of biodiversity.
This extraordinary ability to live in fresh and saltwater and move freely across our planet, make salmon a perfect barometer of the health of our oceans and rivers. Put simply, if all is well with our salmon, all is well with our planet.
The problem is that not all is well with our salmon or with our planet. In our lifetime, wild salmon populations worldwide have plummeted due to human impacts on land and at sea, and the accelerating impact of climate change. If we do not act now, they are on a path to extinction, and with them a serious decline in the ecosystems that depend on this wonder of nature.
Global warming, changing sea temperatures and currents, extreme weather events and a range of other climate-induced problems have all taken a toll on salmon. They are a symbol of the fate of so many other species.
So why focus on salmon as a Climate Change Adaptation Species?
Because of their extraordinary and diverse life cycle, we can monitor the impact that climate change is having on this species. We can implement proven management solutions that will reverse this journey to extinction. These include, among other things, the planting of native trees on a global scale, locking carbon in the forests of the future.
A warming climate has many potential effects on salmon, changing not only their immediate environment, but via more subtle effects on their food, competitors, and predators. Knowledge of the magnitude of these ecosystem changes provides essential evidence upon which to direct any future actions necessary to save salmon.
Crucially, we can measure the success of these solutions and provide a blueprint for helping other threatened species. If we get it right for our salmon, we will be getting it right for many other species and our planet.