EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments
Seasonal cues of Arctic grayling movement in a small Arctic stream: the importance of surface water connectivity
In Arctic ecosystems, freshwater fish migrate seasonally between productive shallow water habitats that freeze in winter and deep overwinter refuge in rivers and lakes. How these movements relate to seasonal hydrology is not well understood. We used passive integrated transponder tags and stream wide antennae to track 1035 Arctic grayling in Crea Creek, a seasonally flowing beaded stream on the Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. Migration of juvenile and adult fish into Crea Creek peaked in June immediately after ice break-up in the stream. Fish that entered the stream during periods of high flow and cold stream temperature traveled farther upstream than those entering during periods of lower flow and warmer temperature. We used generalized linear models to relate migration of adult and juvenile fish out of Crea Creek to hydrology. Most adults migrated in late June – early July, and there was best support (Akaike weight = 0.46; wi) for a model indicating that the rate of migration increased with decreasing discharge. Juvenile migration occurred in two peaks; the early peak consisted of larger juveniles and coincided with adult migration, while the later peak occurred shortly before freeze-up in September and included smaller juveniles. A model that included discharge, minimum stream temperature, year, season, and mean size of potential migrants was most strongly supported (wi = 0.86). Juvenile migration rate increased sharply as daily minimum stream temperature decreased, suggesting fish respond to impending freeze-up. We found fish movements to be intimately tied to the strong seasonality of discharge and temperature, and demonstrate the importance of small stream connectivity for migratory Arctic grayling during the entire open-water period. The ongoing and anticipated effects of climate change and petroleum development on Arctic hydrology (e.g. reduced stream connectivity, earlier peak flows, increased evapotranspiration) have important implications for Arctic freshwater ecosystems.
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