Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations

An Integrated Conceptual Model in Salmon Ecology

Michael Webster


Abstract.—In recent years, salmon ecologists have conducted a series of studies that revised longstanding concepts and added new kinds of information to the collective understanding of how salmon ecosystems function. The implications of these studies have been far-ranging and may lay the groundwork for a new emerging conceptual model of salmon ecology, management, and conservation. This paper argues that this model integrates the interrelated concepts of scale, connectivity, and biocomplexity, which underlie ecosystem function and have direct implications for management decisions and the scales at which effective management must operate. Provided that these concepts continue to stand up to scientific and applied rigor, they will formalize an integrated model of how salmon ecosystems operate that incorporates and broadens decades of system-specific studies. While many of these ideas are already informing management decisions, integrating or connecting these concepts will change the context for future decisions. As we enter a time of accelerating global change, the context in which management decisions are made will have an overwhelming influence on the future health of ecosystems and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.