Large river habitat complexity and productivity of Puget Sound Chinook salmon.
ABSTRACT: While numerous studies have shown that floodplain habitat complexity can be important to fish ecology, few quantify how watershed-scale complexity influences productivity. This scale mismatch complicates population conservation and recovery strategies that evaluate recovery at regional or multi-basin scales. We used outputs from a habitat status and trends monitoring program for ten of Puget Sound's large river systems to examine whether juvenile Chinook salmon productivity relates to watershed-scale habitat complexity. We derived habitat complexity metrics that quantified wood jam densities, side and braid to main channel ratios, and node densities from a remote sensing census of Puget Sound's large river systems. Principal component analysis revealed that 91% of variance in these metrics could be explained by two principal components. These metrics revealed gradients in habitat complexity across Puget Sound which were sensitive to changes in complexity as a result of restoration actions in one watershed. Mixed effects models revealed that the second principle component term (PC2) describing habitat complexity was positively related to log transformed subyearling Chinook per spawner productivity rates from 6-18 cohorts per watershed. Total subyearling productivity (subyearlings per spawner) and fry productivity (subyearling fry per spawner) rates were best described by models that included a positive effect of habitat complexity (PC2) and negative relationships with log transformed peak flow recurrence interval, suggestive of reduced survival due to egg destruction during floods. Total subyearling productivity (subyearlings per spawner) and parr productivity (subyearling parr per spawner) rates were best described by models that included a positive effect of habitat complexity (PC2) and negative relationships with log transformed spawner density, suggestive of density dependent limits on juvenile rearing habitat. We also found that coefficient of variation for log transformed subyearling productivity and subyearling fry productivity rates declined with increasing habitat complexity, supporting the idea that habitat complexity buffers populations from annual variation in environmental conditions. Therefore, we conclude that our watershed-scale census-based approach provided habitat complexity metrics that explained some of the variability in productivity of subyearling juveniles among Chinook salmon populations. Furthermore, this approach may provide a useful means to track and evaluate aggregate effects of habitat changes on the productivity of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Chinook salmon populations over time.
Project description:The ecosystems supporting Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) are changing rapidly as a result of climate change and habitat alteration. Understanding how-and how consistently-salmon populations respond to changes at regional and watershed scales has major implications for fisheries management and habitat conservation. Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) populations across Alaska have declined over the past decade, resulting in fisheries closures and prolonged impacts to local communities. These declines are associated with large-scale climate drivers, but uncertainty remains about the role of local conditions (e.g., precipitation, streamflow, and stream temperature) that vary among the watersheds where salmon spawn and rear. We estimated the effects of these and other environmental indicators on the productivity of 15 Chinook salmon populations in the Cook Inlet basin, southcentral Alaska, using a hierarchical Bayesian stock-recruitment model. Salmon spawning during 2003-2007 produced 57% fewer recruits than the previous long-term average, leading to declines in adult returns beginning in 2008. These declines were explained in part by density dependence, with reduced population productivity following years of high spawning abundance. Across all populations, productivity declined with increased precipitation during the fall spawning and early incubation period and increased with above-average precipitation during juvenile rearing. Above-average stream temperatures during spawning and rearing had variable effects, with negative relationships in many warmer streams and positive relationships in some colder streams. Productivity was also associated with regional indices of streamflow and ocean conditions, with high variability among populations. The cumulative effects of adverse conditions in freshwater, including high spawning abundance, heavy fall rains, and hot, dry summers may have contributed to the recent population declines across the region. Identifying both coherent and differential responses to environmental change underscores the importance of targeted, watershed-specific monitoring and conservation efforts for maintaining resilient salmon runs in a warming world.
Project description:Several Seattle-area streams in Puget Sound were the focus of habitat restoration projects in the 1990s. Post-project effectiveness monitoring surveys revealed anomalous behaviors among adult coho salmon returning to spawn in restored reaches. These included erratic surface swimming, gaping, fin splaying, and loss of orientation and equilibrium. Affected fish died within hours, and female carcasses generally showed high rates (>90%) of egg retention. Beginning in the fall of 2002, systematic spawner surveys were conducted to 1) assess the severity of the adult die-offs, 2) compare spawner mortality in urban vs. non-urban streams, and 3) identify water quality and spawner condition factors that might be associated with the recurrent fish kills. The forensic investigation focused on conventional water quality parameters (e.g., dissolved oxygen, temperature, ammonia), fish condition, pathogen exposure and disease status, and exposures to metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and current use pesticides. Daily surveys of a representative urban stream (Longfellow Creek) from 2002-2009 revealed premature spawner mortality rates that ranged from 60-100% of each fall run. The comparable rate in a non-urban stream was <1% (Fortson Creek, surveyed in 2002). Conventional water quality, pesticide exposure, disease, and spawner condition showed no relationship to the syndrome. Coho salmon did show evidence of exposure to metals and petroleum hydrocarbons, both of which commonly originate from motor vehicles in urban landscapes. The weight of evidence suggests that freshwater-transitional coho are particularly vulnerable to an as-yet unidentified toxic contaminant (or contaminant mixture) in urban runoff. Stormwater may therefore place important constraints on efforts to conserve and recover coho populations in urban and urbanizing watersheds throughout the western United States.
Project description:For widely distributed species at risk, such as Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), habitat monitoring is both essential and challenging. Only recently have widespread monitoring programs been implemented for salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Remote sensing data, such as Landsat images, are therefore a useful way to evaluate trends prior to the advent of species-specific habitat monitoring programs. We used annual (1986-2008) land cover maps created from Landsat images via automated algorithms (LandTrendr) to evaluate trends in developed (50-100% impervious) land cover in areas adjacent to five types of habitat utilized by Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, U.S.A. For the region as a whole, we found significant increases in developed land cover adjacent to each of the habitat types evaluated (nearshore, estuary, mainstem channel, tributary channel, and floodplain), but the increases were small (<1% total increase from 1986 to 2008). For each habitat type, the increasing trend changed during the time series. In nearshore, mainstem, and floodplain areas, the rate of increase in developed land cover slowed in the latter portion of the time series, while the opposite occurred in estuary and tributary areas. Watersheds that were already highly developed in 1986 tended to have higher rates of development than initially less developed watersheds. Overall, our results suggest that developed land cover in areas adjacent to Puget Sound salmon habitat has increased only slightly since 1986 and that the rate of change has slowed near some key habitat types, although this has occurred within the context of a degraded baseline condition.
Project description:To acquire 3-D tracking data on juvenile salmonids, Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS) cabled hydrophone arrays were deployed in the forebays of two dams on the Snake River and at a mid-reach reservoir between the dams. The depth distributions of fish were estimated by statistical analyses performed on large 3-D tracking data sets from ~33,500 individual acoustic tagged yearling and subyearling Chinook salmon and juvenile steelhead at the two dams in 2012 and subyearling Chinook salmon at the two dams and the mid-reach reservoir in 2013. This research investigated the correlation between vertical migration behavior and passage routes. The depth distributions of fish within the forebays of the dams were significantly different from fish passing the mid-reach reservoir. Fish residing deeper in the forebay tended to pass the dam using deeper powerhouse routes. This difference in depth distributions indicated that the depth distribution of fish at the mid-reach reservoir was not related to behaviors of fish passing through certain routes of the adjacent dams. For fish that were detected deeper than 17.5?m in the forebays, the probability of powerhouse passage (i.e., turbine) increased significantly. Another important finding was the variation in depth distributions during dam passage associated with the diel period, especially the crepuscular periods.
Project description:Density-dependent (DD) and density-independent (DI) habitat selection is strongly linked to a species' evolutionary history. Determining the relative importance of each is necessary because declining populations are not always the result of altered DI mechanisms but can often be the result of DD via a reduced carrying capacity. We developed spatially and temporally explicit models throughout the Chena River, Alaska to predict important DI mechanisms that influence Chinook salmon spawning success. We used resource-selection functions to predict suitable spawning habitat based on geomorphic characteristics, a semi-distributed water-and-energy balance hydrologic model to generate stream flow metrics, and modeled stream temperature as a function of climatic variables. Spawner counts were predicted throughout the core and periphery spawning sections of the Chena River from escapement estimates (DD) and DI variables. Additionally, we used isodar analysis to identify whether spawners actively defend spawning habitat or follow an ideal free distribution along the riverscape. Aerial counts were best explained by escapement and reference to the core or periphery, while no models with DI variables were supported in the candidate set. Furthermore, isodar plots indicated habitat selection was best explained by ideal free distributions, although there was strong evidence for active defense of core spawning habitat. Our results are surprising, given salmon commonly defend spawning resources, and are likely due to competition occurring at finer spatial scales than addressed in this study.
Project description:Regional Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed models were used to update 2002 delivered nitrogen (N) loads to estuaries of the contiguous US for 2011, supplemented by direct estuarine atmospheric deposition from the Community Multiscale Air Quality Model. Median 2011 watershed N yields were greatest for the Puget Trough, Virginian. and Oregon–Washington–Vancouver Coast marine ecoregions (MEs; 13. 7, 11.0, and 9.9 kg N/ha watershed/year, respectively); intermediate for the Floridian, Southern California Bight, and Northern California MEs (4.4–6.3 kg N/ha watershed/year); and lowest for the Northern Gulf of Mexico, Carolinian, and Gulf of Maine MEs (2.4–3.2 kg N/ha watershed/year). Dominant sources varied across marine ecoregions, with direct atmospheric deposition as the dominant source only in the far northern Gulf of Maine ME. Delivered N loads from atmospheric deposition have significantly decreased (p < 0.05) for most estuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for 2002–2012. Estimated point source delivered N loads for 2002–2012 increased for most estuaries with upstream treatment plants, with estimated loads to only seven estuaries decreasing by more than 50%. Urban runoff increased for most estuaries in the Puget Trough and Carolinian MEs and either increased or had no significant trend for the remaining marine ecoregions. The magnitude of change in total N delivered loads is uncertain due to incomplete monitoring for most minor dischargers. In areas with increased population growth and decreases in agricultural land, decreasing agricultural fertilizer inputs have been insufficient to offset increases in urban runoff.
Project description:We used gene expression accompanied by physical characteristics and gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity to analyze physiological differences associated with two life history variations of juvenile fall Chinook Salmon in the Snake River basin. Subyearlings originating in the Snake River typically migrate seaward as subyearlings, whereas many subyearlings from the Clearwater River delay seaward migration during summer and complete seaward migration the following spring as yearlings. We examined gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity and gene expression of subyearlings at different times during rearing and seaward emigration. Natural-origin Snake River subyearlings rearing under an increasing photoperiod and seasonally increasing temperatures showed a typical increasing pattern of parr to smolt gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity development, which then declined into autumn. In contrast, Clearwater River subyearlings that had experienced cooler temperatures showed no pattern of increasing gill Na+/K+-ATPase activities and were not different from parr. Liver transcription of genes involved in DNA repair and binding, the cell cycle, metabolism (steroid, fatty acid and other metabolic pathways) iron homeostasis, heme and oxygen binding, the immune response, and male sexual development were enriched amongst genes differentially expressed between Snake River parr versus smolts. Gene expression results confirmed that Clearwater River subyearlings were parr-like in their physiological status. By autumn, subyearlings had low gill Na+/K+-ATPase activities despite their large size and external smolt characteristics. We suggest that environmental factors like temperature and photoperiod influence subyearling physiological status in each river that ultimately dictates juvenile life history pathways. Non-migrating and migrating natural subyearling fall Chinook salmon were collected from the Snake River. Non-migrating natural subyearling fall Chinook salmon were collected from the Clearwater River. Twelve fish were collected at each of four different time points for a total of 48 fish. Total RNA was extracted from the liver of each fish. Equal amounts of RNA from three fish were pooled to create four pools of RNA per time point. Each RNA pool was hybridized to an array for a total of 16 arrays with four arrays per time point.
Project description:Understanding factors influencing survival of Pacific salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) is essential to species conservation, because drivers of mortality can vary over multiple spatial and temporal scales. Although recent studies have evaluated the effects of climate, habitat quality, or resource management (e.g., hatchery operations) on salmonid recruitment and survival, a failure to look at multiple factors simultaneously leaves open questions about the relative importance of different factors. We analyzed the relationship between ten factors and survival (1980-2007) of four populations of salmonids with distinct life histories from two adjacent watersheds (Salmon and Scott rivers) in the Klamath River basin, California. The factors were ocean abundance, ocean harvest, hatchery releases, hatchery returns, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Pacific Gyre Oscillation, El Niño Southern Oscillation, snow depth, flow, and watershed disturbance. Permutation tests and linear mixed-effects models tested effects of factors on survival of each taxon. Potential factors affecting survival differed among taxa and between locations. Fall Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha survival trends appeared to be driven partially or entirely by hatchery practices. Trends in three taxa (Salmon River spring Chinook salmon, Scott River fall Chinook salmon; Salmon River summer steelhead trout O. mykiss) were also likely driven by factors subject to climatic forcing (ocean abundance, summer flow). Our findings underscore the importance of multiple factors in simultaneously driving population trends in widespread species such as anadromous salmonids. They also show that the suite of factors may differ among different taxa in the same location as well as among populations of the same taxa in different watersheds. In the Klamath basin, hatchery practices need to be reevaluated to protect wild 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:The species Oncorhynchus mykiss is characterized by a complex life history that presents a significant challenge for population monitoring and conservation management. Many factors contribute to genetic variation in O. mykiss populations, including sympatry among migratory phenotypes, habitat heterogeneity, hatchery introgression, and immigration (stray) rates. The relative influences of these and other factors are contingent on characteristics of the local environment. The Rock Creek subbasin in the middle Columbia River has no history of hatchery supplementation and no dams or artificial barriers. Limited intervention and minimal management have led to a dearth of information regarding the genetic distinctiveness of the extant O. mykiss population in Rock Creek and its tributaries. We used 192 SNP markers and collections sampled over a 5-year period to evaluate the temporal and spatial genetic structures of O. mykiss between upper and lower watersheds of the Rock Creek subbasin. We investigated potential limits to gene flow within the lower watershed where the stream is fragmented by seasonally dry stretches of streambed, and between upper and lower watershed regions. We found minor genetic differentiation within the lower watershed occupied by anadromous steelhead (FST = 0.004), and evidence that immigrant influences were prevalent and ubiquitous. Populations in the upper watershed above partial natural barriers were highly distinct (FST = 0.093) and minimally impacted by apparent introgression. Genetic structure between watersheds paralleled differences in local demographics (e.g., variation in size), migratory restrictions, and habitat discontinuity. The evidence of restricted gene flow between putative remnant resident populations in the upper watershed and the admixed anadromous population in the lower watershed has implications for local steelhead productivity and regional conservation.