Rain ruins strawberry season, warmth threatens wild salmon

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Two of Norway’s most cherished summertime menu items, strawberries and wild salmon, are being battered by the changing climate. Near-constant rain in July took a heavy toll on Norwegian strawberry fields, while rising temperatures in the rivers threaten wild salmon.

Predictions have been made for years now that Norway’s climate is slowly but surely getting warmer and wetter. This summer seems to have backed up the trend, with heavy rains pouring down in July and so far into August, especially in southern Norway. Northern Norway, meanwhile, has been experiencing some record warm days.

Now comes confirmation that the rain has swamped profits for Norwegian strawberry growers this summer. Some have seen 80 percent of their crops wiped out because the berries rotted in flooded fields.

The growers also suffered a price fall early in the summer, when a heat wave led to early ripening that flooded the market and brought prices down quickly. Then came the rains and now, as strawberry season gives way to raspberry season, most growers have precious few attractive berries to sell.”I’ve been in contact with growers who have had to tolerate crop losses of anywhere from 20 to 80 percent this year,” Jørn Haslestad, of the Norwegian agricultural advisory service (Norsk Landbruksrådgivning) told news bureau NTB.

Growers in Hedmark County were hit the hardest, but their counterparts from Oslo to Lillehammer suffered as well as state weather stations reported as much as two to three times normal rainfall.

Near-drought up north

In northern Norway, though, farmers and ranchers have been coping with unusually warm weather that dried out fields and even has forced some to slaughter livestock because they don’t have enough grass to feed their cattle.

Warmer temperatures in local rivers are also causing problems for Norway’s wild salmon. Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that salmon are lacking cold enough water and the ice they need in the winter, when they traditionally live off fat reserves and rest under the ice.

When the ice disappears, notes Janne Sollie of the state Directorate for Nature Management (Direktoratet for naturforvaltning, DN) , the salmon become stressed and use up far too much of their fat reserves. “The number of salmon that die in the rivers will increase when a lack of ice forces them to burn off more fat,” Sollie told Aftenposten .

The warmer river water also can give rise to parasites in the water and disease that kills the fish.

“Wildlife generally adapts to change,” said Torfinn Evensen of the river owners’ organization Norske lakseelver . “But now it seems the changes are occurring so quickly that the salmon can’t keep up.” This year’s catch of wild salmon is way down from previous years.