Juvenile Coho and Chinook Salmon Growth, Size, and Condition Linked To Watershed-Scale Salmon Spawner Abundance

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Anadromous Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. are semelparous, and resource subsidies from spawning adult salmon (marine-derived nutrients [MDN]) benefit juvenile salmonids while they rear in freshwater. However, it is unclear if juvenile salmon populations respond predictably to the abundance of spawning salmon at the watershed scale. To address whether hypothesized benefits to rearing juveniles scale up to population and watershed scales, we examined juvenile Coho Salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch and Chinook Salmon O. tshawytscha growth, fork length, condition, and abundance as a function of MDN assimilation throughout the Unalakleet and North rivers in western Alaska. Additionally, a mark–recapture experiment provided abundance estimates of Coho Salmon smolts emigrating from these two rivers. Prior to spawning, residual MDN from past years offered little advantage to juvenile salmon. However, after the arrival of spawning adults, juveniles demonstrated a positive relationship between MDN and fish size, growth, and condition in fall and winter. Out-migrating smolts also benefitted from MDN resources via increased size and growth rates. Coho Salmon smolt abundance was unrelated to total spawner biomass, but a positive relationship between MDN assimilation and smolt abundance suggested a possible effect on overwinter survival. Furthermore, similar trends in spawner biomass and the abundance of age-1 smolts suggested that age at smolting was influenced by MDN. These relationships support the hypothesis that salmon spawner abundance during Coho and Chinook Salmon rearing is an important factor in the juvenile productivity of these species.

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Transactions of the American Fisheries Society





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