Size-selective mortality and environmental factors affecting early marine growth during early marine life stages of sub-yearling Chinook salmon in Puget Sound, Washington
Gamble, Madilyn Marisa
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Body size, mediated through biotic and abiotic factors affecting growth, is fundamental in determining survival as larger animals are usually less vulnerable to predation, starvation, and extreme environmental conditions (Peterson & Wroblewski 1984; Sogard 1997). Size-selective mortality is a prevalent force regulating marine survival for many anadromous salmonid species, including ESA-listed Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Puget Sound, WA. The “critical size – critical period” hypothesis suggests that marine survival of anadromous Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) is controlled by two size-selective survival bottlenecks – one during the first marine summer and another during the first marine winter (Beamish and Mahnken 2001). Previous research has indicated a strong positive relationship between the size of juvenile ESA-listed Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) in Puget Sound and their survival to adulthood, indicating that early marine growth drives survival (Duffy 2009). Before investigating the drivers of early marine growth, however, it is imperative to understand whether size-selective mortality occurs prior to July in Puget Sound. If so, we may be able to augment marine survival by directing conservation and restoration efforts toward the habitats or regions of Puget Sound where size-selective mortality occurs. Additionally, we must account for any size-selective mortality in estimating early marine growth, as observed weight in July would reflect an artificially inflated “apparent” growth if smaller individuals were experiencing disproportionately high mortality. In this study, we repeatedly sampled nine stocks of both wild and hatchery-origin sub-yearling Chinook salmon during their outmigration into and rearing in Puget Sound. We used scale morphometrics to determine if size-selective mortality is affecting sub-yearling Chinook salmon during their first marine summer rearing in Puget Sound, and if so, where and when that size-selective mortality occurs. We found no evidence of size-selective mortality occurring between habitats or between sampling periods within habitats, suggesting that weight of juvenile Chinook as measured in July is representative of early marine growth and that size-selective mortality occurs later in the summer or outside Puget Sound during the first marine winter. We then focused on understanding differences in growth rates across time, among habitats, and among stocks of juvenile Chinook salmon, and used bioenergetic models to determine the relative influence of prey quality, prey availability, and temperature on early marine growth rates We found that sub-yearling Chinook were larger and grew faster in offshore than in nearshore habitats, and that this difference in growth rate was likely due to differences in prey availability and may have been exacerbated by higher nearshore temperatures. The results of this study can be used to direct restoration and conservation efforts aimed at supporting early marine growth of juvenile Chinook in Puget Sound, and can augment our understanding of distribution patterns and feeding behaviors of Pacific salmon during critical growth periods.
- Fisheries