Over 50 years of data from Bristol Bay, Alaska show that the region’s many different populations of sockeye salmon act like a diversified portfolio of investments, buffering fisheries and incomes from the ups and downs of particular stocks. Stripped of its current diversity, that fishery would close once every two to three years rather than once every 25 years. Globally, rates of population loss are estimated to be a thousand times higher than species extinction. This study quantifies, for the first time, just how much depends on this “portfolio effect.”

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