Juvenile salmon usage of the Skeena River estuary.
ABSTRACT: Migratory salmon transit estuary habitats on their way out to the ocean but this phase of their life cycle is more poorly understood than other phases. The estuaries of large river systems in particular may support many populations and several species of salmon that originate from throughout the upstream river. The Skeena River of British Columbia, Canada, is a large river system with high salmon population- and species-level diversity. The estuary of the Skeena River is under pressure from industrial development, with two gas liquefaction terminals and a potash loading facility in various stages of environmental review processes, providing motivation for understanding the usage of the estuary by juvenile salmon. We conducted a juvenile salmonid sampling program throughout the Skeena River estuary in 2007 and 2013 to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of different species and populations of salmon. We captured six species of juvenile anadromous salmonids throughout the estuary in both years, and found that areas proposed for development support some of the highest abundances of some species of salmon. Specifically, the highest abundances of sockeye (both years), Chinook in 2007, and coho salmon in 2013 were captured in areas proposed for development. For example, juvenile sockeye salmon were 2-8 times more abundant in the proposed development areas. Genetic stock assignment demonstrated that the Chinook salmon and most of the sockeye salmon that were captured originated from throughout the Skeena watershed, while some sockeye salmon came from the Nass, Stikine, Southeast Alaska, and coastal systems on the northern and central coasts of British Columbia. These fish support extensive commercial, recreational, and First Nations fisheries throughout the Skeena River and beyond. Our results demonstrate that estuary habitats integrate species and population diversity of salmon, and that if proposed development negatively affects the salmon populations that use the estuary, then numerous fisheries would also be negatively affected.
Project description:Multiple dam passage during seaward migration is thought to reduce the subsequent survival of Snake River Chinook salmon. This hypothesis developed because juvenile Chinook salmon from the Snake River, the Columbia River's largest tributary, migrate >700 km through eight hydropower dams and have lower adult return rates than downstream populations that migrate through only 3 or 4 dams. Using a large-scale telemetry array, we tested whether survival of hatchery-reared juvenile Snake River spring Chinook salmon is reduced in the estuary and coastal ocean relative to a downstream, hatchery-reared population from the Yakima River. During the initial 750-km, 1-mo-long migration through the estuary and coastal ocean, we found no evidence of differential survival; therefore, poorer adult returns of Snake River Chinook may develop far from the Columbia River. Thus, hydrosystem mitigation efforts may be ineffective if differential mortality rates develop in the North Pacific Ocean for reasons unrelated to dam passage.
Project description:In 2015, the Pacific marine heat wave, low river flows, and record high water temperatures in the Columbia River Basin contributed to a near-complete failure of the adult migration of endangered Snake River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka, NOAA Fisheries 2016). These extreme weather events may become the new normal due to anthropogenic climate change, with catastrophic consequences for endangered species. Existing anthropogenic pressures may amplify vulnerability to climate change, but these potential synergies have rarely been quantified. We examined factors affecting survival of endangered sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) and threatened Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) as they migrated upstream through eight dams and reservoirs to spawning areas in the Snake River Basin. Our extensive database included histories of 17,279 individual fish that migrated since 2004. A comparison between conditions in 2015 and daily temperatures and flows in a regulated basin forced by output from global climate models showed that 2015 did have many characteristics of projected future mean conditions. To evaluate potential salmon responses, we modeled migration timing and apparent survival under historical and future climate scenarios (2040s). For Chinook salmon, adult survival from the first dam encountered to spawning grounds dropped by 4-15%, depending on the climate scenario. For sockeye, survival dropped by ~80% from their already low levels. Through sensitivity analyses, we observed that the adult sockeye migration would need to shift more than 2 weeks earlier than predicted to maintain survival rates typical of those seen during 2008-2017. Overall, the greater impacts of climate change on adult sockeye compared with adult Chinook salmon reflected differences in life history and environmental sensitivities, which were compounded for sockeye by larger effect sizes from other anthropogenic factors. Compared with Chinook, sockeye was more negatively affected by a history of juvenile transportation and by similar temperatures and flows. The largest changes in temperature and flow were projected to be upstream from the hydrosystem, where direct mitigation through hydrosystem management is not an option. Unfortunately, Snake River sockeye have likely lost much of their adaptive capacity with the loss of the wild population. Further work exploring habitat restoration or additional mitigation actions is urgently needed.
Project description:Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) is a negative-sense RNA virus that infects wild and cultured salmonids throughout the Pacific Coastal United States and Canada, from California to Alaska. Although infection of adult fish is usually asymptomatic, juvenile infections can result in high mortality events that impact salmon hatchery programs and commercial aquaculture. We used epidemiological case data and genetic sequence data from a 303?nt portion of the viral glycoprotein gene to study the evolutionary dynamics of U genogroup IHNV in the Pacific Northwestern United States from 1971 to 2013. We identified 114 unique genotypes among 1,219?U genogroup IHNV isolates representing 619 virus detection events. We found evidence for two previously unidentified, broad subgroups within the U genogroup, which we designated 'UC' and 'UP'. Epidemiologic records indicated that UP viruses were detected more frequently in sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) and in coastal waters of Washington and Oregon, whereas UC viruses were detected primarily in Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Columbia River Basin, which is a large, complex watershed extending throughout much of interior Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. These findings were supported by phylogenetic analysis and by FST. Ancestral state reconstruction indicated that early UC viruses in the Columbia River Basin initially infected sockeye salmon but then emerged via host shifts into Chinook salmon and steelhead trout sometime during the 1980s. We postulate that the development of these subgroups within U genogroup was driven by selection pressure for viral adaptation to Chinook salmon and steelhead trout within the Columbia River Basin.
Project description:The collapse of iconic, keystone populations of sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) and Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) salmon in the Northeast Pacific is of great concern. It is thought that infectious disease may contribute to declines, but little is known about viruses endemic to Pacific salmon. Metatranscriptomic sequencing and surveillance of dead and moribund cultured Chinook salmon revealed a novel arenavirus, reovirus and nidovirus. Sequencing revealed two different arenavirus variants which each infect wild Chinook and sockeye salmon. In situ hybridisation localised arenavirus mostly to blood cells. Population surveys of >6000 wild juvenile Chinook and sockeye salmon showed divergent distributions of viruses, implying different epidemiological processes. The discovery in dead and dying farmed salmon of previously unrecognised viruses that are also widely distributed in wild salmon, emphasizes the potential role that viral disease may play in the population dynamics of wild fish stocks, and the threat that these viruses may pose to aquaculture.
Project description:Experiences of migratory species in one habitat may affect their survival in the next habitat, in what is known as carryover effects. These effects are especially relevant for understanding how freshwater experience affects survival in anadromous fishes. Here, we study the carryover effects of juvenile salmon passage through a hydropower system (Snake and Columbia rivers, northwestern United States). To reduce the direct effect of hydrosystem passage on juveniles, some fishes are transported through the hydrosystem in barges, while the others are allowed to migrate in-river. Although hydrosystem survival of transported fishes is greater than that of their run-of-river counterparts, their relative juvenile-to-adult survival (hereafter survival) can be less. We tested for carryover effects using generalized linear mixed effects models of survival with over 1 million tagged Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (Walbaum) (Salmonidae), migrating in 1999-2013. Carryover effects were identified with rear-type (wild vs. hatchery), passage-type (run-of-river vs. transported), and freshwater and marine covariates. Importantly, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index characterizing cool/warm (i.e., productive/nonproductive) ocean phases had a strong influence on the relative survival of rear- and passage-types. Specifically, transportation benefited wild Chinook salmon more in cool PDO years, while hatchery counterparts benefited more in warm PDO years. Transportation was detrimental for wild Chinook salmon migrating early in the season, but beneficial for later season migrants. Hatchery counterparts benefited from transportation throughout the season. Altogether, wild fish could benefit from transportation approximately 2 weeks earlier during cool PDO years, with still a benefit to hatchery counterparts. Furthermore, we found some support for hypotheses related to higher survival with increased river flow, high predation in the estuary and plume areas, and faster migration and development-related increased survival with temperature. Thus, pre- and within-season information on local- and broad-scale conditions across habitats can be useful for planning and implementing real-time conservation programs.
Project description:Predation mortality can influence the distribution and abundance of fish populations. While predation is often assessed using direct observations of prey consumption, potential predation can be predicted from co-occurring predator and prey densities under varying environmental conditions. Juvenile Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. (i.e., smolts) from the Columbia River Basin experience elevated mortality during the transition from estuarine to ocean habitat, but a thorough understanding of the role of predation remains incomplete. We used a Holling type II functional response to estimate smolt predation risk based on observations of piscivorous seabirds (sooty shearwater [Ardenna griseus] and common murre [Uria aalge]) and local densities of alternative prey fish including northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) in Oregon and Washington coastal waters during May and June 2010-2012. We evaluated predation risk relative to the availability of alternative prey and physical factors including turbidity and Columbia River plume area, and compared risk to returns of adult salmon. Seabirds and smolts consistently co-occurred at sampling stations throughout most of the study area (mean = 0.79 ± 0.41, SD), indicating that juvenile salmon are regularly exposed to avian predators during early marine residence. Predation risk for juvenile coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), yearling Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), and subyearling Chinook salmon was on average 70% lower when alternative prey were present. Predation risk was greater in turbid waters, and decreased as water clarity increased. Juvenile coho and yearling Chinook salmon predation risk was lower when river plume surface areas were greater than 15,000 km2, while the opposite was estimated for subyearling Chinook salmon. These results suggest that plume area, turbidity, and forage fish abundance near the mouth of the Columbia River, all of which are influenced by river discharge, are useful indicators of potential juvenile salmon mortality that could inform salmonid management.
Project description:Major ecological realignments are already occurring in response to climate change. To be successful, conservation strategies now need to account for geographical patterns in traits sensitive to climate change, as well as climate threats to species-level diversity. As part of an effort to provide such information, we conducted a climate vulnerability assessment that included all anadromous Pacific salmon and steelhead (Oncorhynchus spp.) population units listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Using an expert-based scoring system, we ranked 20 attributes for the 28 listed units and 5 additional units. Attributes captured biological sensitivity, or the strength of linkages between each listing unit and the present climate; climate exposure, or the magnitude of projected change in local environmental conditions; and adaptive capacity, or the ability to modify phenotypes to cope with new climatic conditions. Each listing unit was then assigned one of four vulnerability categories. Units ranked most vulnerable overall were Chinook (O. tshawytscha) in the California Central Valley, coho (O. kisutch) in California and southern Oregon, sockeye (O. nerka) in the Snake River Basin, and spring-run Chinook in the interior Columbia and Willamette River Basins. We identified units with similar vulnerability profiles using a hierarchical cluster analysis. Life history characteristics, especially freshwater and estuary residence times, interplayed with gradations in exposure from south to north and from coastal to interior regions to generate landscape-level patterns within each species. Nearly all listing units faced high exposures to projected increases in stream temperature, sea surface temperature, and ocean acidification, but other aspects of exposure peaked in particular regions. Anthropogenic factors, especially migration barriers, habitat degradation, and hatchery influence, have reduced the adaptive capacity of most steelhead and salmon populations. Enhancing adaptive capacity is essential to mitigate for the increasing threat of climate change. Collectively, these results provide a framework to support recovery planning that considers climate impacts on the majority of West Coast anadromous salmonids.
Project description:Beaver have expanded in their native habitats throughout the northern hemisphere in recent decades following reductions in trapping and reintroduction efforts. Beaver have the potential to strongly influence salmon populations in the side channels of large alluvial rivers by building dams that create pond complexes. Pond habitat may improve salmon productivity or the presence of dams may reduce productivity if dams limit habitat connectivity and inhibit fish passage. Our intent in this paper is to contrast the habitat use and production of juvenile salmon on expansive floodplains of two geomorphically similar salmon rivers: the Kol River in Kamchatka, Russia (no beavers) and the Kwethluk River in Alaska (abundant beavers), and thereby provide a case study on how beavers may influence salmonids in large floodplain rivers. We examined important rearing habitats in each floodplain, including springbrooks, beaver ponds, beaver-influenced springbrooks, and shallow shorelines of the river channel. Juvenile coho salmon dominated fish assemblages in all habitats in both rivers but other species were present. Salmon density was similar in all habitat types in the Kol, but in the Kwethluk coho and Chinook densities were 3-12× lower in mid- and late-successional beaver ponds than in springbrook and main channel habitats. In the Kol, coho condition (length: weight ratios) was similar among habitats, but Chinook condition was highest in orthofluvial springbrooks. In the Kwethluk, Chinook condition was similar among habitats, but coho condition was lowest in main channel versus other habitats (0.89 vs. 0.99-1.10). Densities of juvenile salmon were extremely low in beaver ponds located behind numerous dams in the orthofluvial zone of the Kwethluk River floodplain, whereas juvenile salmon were abundant in habitats throughout the entire floodplain in the Kol River. If beavers were not present on the Kwethluk, floodplain habitats would be fully interconnected and theoretically could produce 2× the biomass (between June-August, 1,174 vs. 667 kg) and rear 3× the number of salmon (370,000 vs. 140,000) compared to the existing condition with dams present. The highly productive Kol river produces an order of magnitude more salmon biomass and rears 40× the individuals compared to the Kwethluk. If beavers were introduced to the Kol River, we estimate that off-channel habitats would produce half as much biomass (2,705 vs. 5,404 kg) and 3× fewer individuals (1,482,346 vs. 4,856,956) owing to conversion of inter-connected, productive springbrooks into inaccessible pond complexes. We concluded that beaver dams may limit the total amount of floodplain habitat available for salmon rearing in the Kwethluk river and that the introduction of beavers to the Kol river could be detrimental to salmon populations. The introduction of beavers to other large alluvial rivers like those found in Kamchatka could have negative consequences for salmon production.
Project description:Early marine survival of juvenile salmon is intimately associated with their physiological condition during smoltification and ocean entry. Smoltification (parr-smolt transformation) is a developmental process that allows salmon to acquire seawater tolerance in preparation for marine living. Traditionally, this developmental process has been monitored using gill Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) activity or plasma hormones, but gill gene expression offers the possibility of another method. Here, we describe the discovery of candidate genes from gill tissue for staging smoltification using comparisons of microarray studies with particular focus on the commonalities between anadromous Rainbow trout and Sockeye salmon datasets, as well as a literature comparison encompassing more species. A subset of 37 candidate genes mainly from the microarray analyses was used for TaqMan quantitative PCR assay design and their expression patterns were validated using gill samples from four groups, representing three species and two ecotypes: Coho salmon, Sockeye salmon, stream-type Chinook salmon and ocean-type Chinook salmon. The best smoltification biomarkers, as measured by consistent changes across these four groups, were genes involved in ion regulation, oxygen transport and immunity. Smoltification gene expression patterns (using the top 10 biomarkers) were confirmed by significant correlations with NKA activity and were associated with changes in body brightness, caudal fin darkness and caudal peduncle length. We incorporate gene expression patterns of pre-smolt, smolt and de-smolt trials from acute seawater transfers from a companion study to develop a preliminary seawater tolerance classification model for ocean-type Chinook salmon. This work demonstrates the potential of gene expression biomarkers to stage smoltification and classify juveniles as pre-smolt, smolt or de-smolt.
Project description:Between 2013 and 2019, 63 presumed Chinook salmon <i>Oncorhynchus tshawytscha</i> sampled primarily in the Strait of Georgia (0.63% of total sample) were identified as potential Chinook-Coho (<i>Oncorhynchus kisutch</i>) hybrids by the presence of anomalous microsatellite genotypes. Their hybrid origin was confirmed by single nucleotide polymorphism amplification of two species-specific amplicons. Mitochondrial DNA indicated that most of these fish resulted from the hybridization of Coho salmon females and Chinook salmon males. Although no diagnostic external features were identified, several individuals displayed an abnormal scale arrangement on the caudal peduncle. One hybrid juvenile examined for meristics exhibited a pyloric caeca count intermediate between published values for Chinook and Coho salmon. Most hybrids originated in the Cowichan River during the 2014 brood year. Their prevalence in the watershed is a naturally occurring event, likely exacerbated by prolonged low water levels which limit habitat and delay Chinook salmon spawning, in addition to the differential abundance of the parental species. This research is the first to document ongoing natural hybridization (Chinook-Coho salmon crosses) and link it to habitat and climatic changes, and includes the identification of eight F1 adults and two juvenile backcross or F2 hybrids. The potential negative impacts of hybridization, particularly in Coho salmon through potential introgression, warrant hybrid identification as an ecosystem monitoring tool within a survey program.