Salmon Photographs by Will Saunders, Dan Morrison, Ryan Hagen, Ben McBee

The significance of salmon to the people of Cordova cannot be overstated. What makes them interesting for our purposes is their significance not only as a keystone indicator species of the effects of climate change, but also their cultural significance and the measurable impact that their presence and absence has on the communities built on the fishing industry.

Mary Ruckelshaus, a federal biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, has been running climate models to peer into the future for Pacific Northwest salmon. Those models predict that salmon will become extinct without aggressive efforts to preserve the clear, cool streams needed for spawning, such as planting trees to shade streams and curtailing the amount of water siphoned off by farmers. "It's sort of a time bomb," Ruckelshaus said. "If people don't have a plan for it, it can be disastrous when it hits."