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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of Flow-Related Variables on Oversummer Survival of Juvenile Coho Salmon in Intermittent Streams


While many studies have established the importance of streamflow as a driver of fish population dynamics, few have examined relationships between survival of juvenile salmonids and flow-related variables in intermittent streams. With predictions for higher frequency of drought conditions due to climate change, and the associated increasing human demand for water during the dry season, understanding fish­­­–flow relationships is becoming increasingly important for the protection of sensitive aquatic species. To examine the effects of low streamflow on juvenile salmonids rearing in small intermittent streams, we estimated survival and collected environmental data in four coastal California watersheds from 2011 to 2013. We used an individual-based mark-recapture modeling approach to evaluate the influence of flow-related variables on oversummer survival of PIT-tagged juvenile Coho Salmon stocked into eight stream reaches. Survival was positively associated with streamflow magnitude, wetted volume, and dissolved oxygen, and negatively associated with days of disconnected surface flow (days of disconnection), and temperature. Days of disconnection best explained survival, though the relationship varied by geomorphic reach type. Survival was lower in alluvial reaches as compared to bedrock and clay reaches, and showed a faster rate of decline with increasing days of disconnection and drought condition. In all reaches, the onset of pool disconnection represented a turning point at which water quality, water quantity, and survival declined. For this reason, we suggest that days of disconnection (or the flow magnitude at which pools become disconnected) is a useful metric for identifying flow-impaired reaches, informing streamflow protection strategies, and prioritizing streamflow enhancement efforts designed to benefit sensitive salmonid populations in intermittent streams.

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