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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Oversummer growth and survival of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) across a natural gradient of stream water temperature and prey availability: An in situ enclosure experiment

  • Author(s): Lusardi, RA
  • Hammock, BG
  • Jeffres, CA
  • Dahlgren, RA
  • Kiernan, JD
  • et al.

© 2020, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved. Conservation efforts for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) increasingly prioritize maintenance of cool water temperatures that protect all freshwater life stages. However, development of appropriate temperature standards requires a robust understanding of the interactions among water temperature, ecosystem productivity, and fish performance. We used a series of in situ enclosures to examine how natural spatiotemporal gradients in thermal conditions and prey availability affected the summer growth and survival of age-0+ coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Coho salmon absolute growth rates peaked at a mean daily average water temperature (mean T) of 16.6 °C and an associated maximum weekly maximum temperature (MWMT) of 21.1 °C. Juvenile growth under these thermal conditions was sixfold greater than the growth rates observed for conspecifics rearing in the coolest study reach (mean T = 13.0 °C; MWMT = 16.0 °C). Even at the highest rearing temperature (mean T = 18.1 °C; MWMT = 24.0 °C), growth rates remained positive and above the study-wide average, although overall survival was reduced. Among the predictor variables examined, invertebrate prey abundance was the predominant factor influencing age-0+ coho salmon growth. These results suggest that abundant prey resources may mitigate the negative effects of elevated water temperature on fish growth in riverine environments. Given the likelihood of increasing stream temperatures with climate change, productive ecosystems may provide critical refuges for juvenile salmonids.

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