It's a shocker, a new study that claims dams make no difference to salmon survival. But don't start planning new dams just yet...the study has serious flaws and the conclusions are overstated.
Think about it...if one new study came out saying smoking doesn't cause cancer, would you be ready to change your mind after years of studies to the contrary?
The journal that publised the study heralded the findings with a stupid press release that claimed: "Dams make no damn difference to salmon survival." Now that's adding gasoline to a fire, with a ridiculously overstatement of the study's results. Thankfully, this title was quickly removed from the press release.
How did we get into this mess? What's up with PLoS Biology, the online journal that published the study and pushed the findings with a sensational press release? I'll pose the question to PLoS's online community manager and get back to you with the answer.
Here's what happened. Researchers compared survival of young salmon moving downstream to the ocean in two different rivers, one with dams (Columbia River) and one without (Fraser River). They survived equally well, or I should say equally poorly.
From this, a conclusion that dams don't matter? A better conclusion is to report that salmon survived poorly in both rivers, so they both have problems. One (Columbia) has a dam problem, and the other (Fraser) has a non-dam problem.
This study is more reasonable than the press release, but it still invites foolish interpretations with some of the language in uses to describe the results.