82% Of California's Remaining Native Fish Will Likely Go Extinct Within The Next 100 Years, Research Finds

82% of California’s remaining native freshwater fish species will likely go extinct within the next 100 years as a result of climate change and habitat loss, new research has found. This includes California’s remains salmon species, which will likely lose their habitats to invasive non-native fish, according to researchers from the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis.

Image Credit: University of California - Davis
Image Credit: University of California – Davis

The new research was done by assessing how vulnerable California’s freshwater fish species are to climate change, and creating an estimate of the likelihood that each species would face extinction in the next 100 years. What the researchers found, was that, out of “121 native fish species, 82% are likely to be driven to extinction or very low numbers as climate change speeds the decline of already depleted populations. In contrast, only 19% of the 50 non-native fish species in the state face a similar risk of extinction.”

Over the past 200 years California has lost a great number of its native fish species, and seen many populations of surviving species nearly completely collapse, as has happened with many of the previously ubiquitous salmon species.

“If present trends continue, much of the unique California fish fauna will disappear and be replaced by alien fishes, such as carp, largemouth bass, fathead minnows and green sunfish,” said Peter Moyle, a professor of fish biology at UC Davis who has been documenting the biology and status of California fish for the past 40 years.

“Disappearing fish will include not only obscure species of minnows, suckers and pupfishes, but also coho salmon, most runs of steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, and Sacramento perch,” Moyle said.

The species that are most susceptible to extinction are, not surprisingly, those most well-adapted to relatively cold waters, such as salmon and trout. Many non-native species are predicted to thrive in their place though. Of course that depends on the state of the environment, if habitat loss and environmental degradation continue at their current rate then California will no doubt look like a very different place in 100 years… And may not be home to that many large animal species at all…

Here’s a list of the top 20 native California fish species most likely to become extinct in California within 100 years as the result of climate change include (asterisks denote a species already listed as threatened or endangered):

1. Klamath Mountains Province summer steelhead
2. McCloud River redband trout
3. Unarmored threespine stickleback*
4. Shay Creek stickleback
5. Delta smelt*
6. Long Valley speckled dace
7. Central Valley late fall Chinook salmon
8. Kern River rainbow trout
9. Shoshone pupfish
10. Razorback sucker*
11. Upper Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon
12. Southern steelhead*
13. Clear Lake hitch
14. Owens speckled dace
15. Northern California coast summer steelhead
16. Amargosa Canyon speckled dace
17. Central coast coho salmon*
18. Southern Oregon Northern California coast coho salmon*
19. Modoc sucker*
20. Pink salmon

“The species are listed in order of vulnerability to extinction, with No. 1 being the most vulnerable.
Climate change and human-caused degradation of aquatic habitats is causing worldwide declines in freshwater fishes, especially in regions with arid or Mediterranean climates, the study said. These declines pose a major conservation challenge. However, there has (previously) been little research in the scientific literature related to the status of most fish species, particularly native ones of little economic value.”

The new research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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