Coldwater fish in a warm water world: Implications for predation of salmon smolts during estuary transit
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Coldwater fish in a warm water world: Implications for predation of salmon smolts during estuary transit

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  • Journal Title:
    Ecology and Evolution
  • Description:
    Predator–prey systems face intensifying pressure from human exploitation and a warming climate with implications for where and how natural resource management can successfully intervene. We hypothesized young salmon migrating to the Pacific Ocean face a seasonally intensifying predator gauntlet when warming water temperature intensifies a multiple predator effect (MPE) from Striped Bass Morone saxatilis and Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides. We evaluated this hypothesis using data synthesis and simulation modeling.

    Contemporary studies based on acoustically tagged fish reaffirmed older observations that Chinook Salmon smolts must transit the Delta before water temperature reaches 20°C or mortality will be nearly 100%. Striped Bass attack rates on tethered smolts were insensitive to distance from shore and water temperature, whereas Largemouth Bass attack rates were highest near shorelines in warm water, supporting the temporal aspect of the hypothesis. Whether the combined effects of the two predators produce an MPE remains unconfirmed due to limitations on quantifying salmon behavior.

    We used multiple simulation models to try to reconstruct the empirical relationship between smolt survival and water temperature. Simulations reinforced attack rate results, but could not recreate the temperature dependence in smolt survival except at higher than observed temperatures. We propose three hypotheses for why and recommend discerning among them should be a focus of research.

    We found significant linear relationships between monthly mean inflow to the Delta from each of its two largest tributaries and monthly mean water temperatures along associated salmon migration routes, but these relationships can be nonlinear, with most of the correlation occurring at low inflows when water temperature is largely controlled by air temperature and day length. As the global climate warms, changed circumstances in predator–prey relationships may present important challenges when managing species vulnerable to extinction in addition to presently more abundant species.

  • Source:
    Ecology and Evolution, 11, 10381– 10395
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    CC BY
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