Comparative Use of Shallow and Deepwater Habitats by Juvenile Pacific Salmon in the Columbia River Estuary Prior to Ocean Entry
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Comparative Use of Shallow and Deepwater Habitats by Juvenile Pacific Salmon in the Columbia River Estuary Prior to Ocean Entry

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    Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 8(1), 536–552
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    The degree to which fine-scale habitat use by salmonid species and stocks varies within habitat types such as estuaries is not fully resolved.We sampled shallow shoreline and deeper main-stem channel habitats in the Columbia River estuary over 3 years to compare salmon species composition, migration timing, density, size, and production type (hatchery or natural). Results indicated a high degree of spatial heterogeneity in habitat occupancy by the five salmonid species that are native to the basin. Salmonid communities at two channel habitat sites were much more similar to each other than to the community at a shoreline site. Salmonids sampled at the shoreline site were primarily subyearling Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Chum Salmon O. keta and yearling Coho Salmon O. kisutch, with few other salmonids present. In contrast, channel habitat contained a higher diversity of salmon species, with samples representing all species of anadromous salmonids, including Sockeye Salmon O. nerka and steelhead O. mykiss. Salmonids in deeper channel habitat were generally larger than salmonids found along the shore, and the proportion of hatchery-origin salmon was also higher in deep channel habitats. On a per-area basis, we also found much higher densities of salmon along the shoreline than in channel habitats. For Chinook Salmon, habitat use also differed by genetic stock of origin: upper-river stocks primarily used deeper channels, while lower-river populations used both channel and shoreline areas. We concluded that sampling at both habitat types is required to fully encompass the migration patterns of all salmon evolutionarily significant units in the Columbia River basin. These spatial and temporal variations in salmon timing and density have ramifications for feeding, growth, and competitive interactions. This study provides information that is relevant for conservation efforts targeting specific fish populations and efforts to evaluate the potential impacts of in-water activities in the Columbia River estuary.
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