Use of glacier river-fed estuary channels by juvenile Coho Salmon: transitional or rearing habitats?
Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world and provide important rearing environments for a variety of fish species. Though generally considered important transitional habitats for smolting salmon, little is known about the role that estuaries serve for rearing and the environmental conditions important for salmon. We illustrate how juvenile coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch use a glacial river-fed estuary based on examination of spatial and seasonal variability in patterns of abundance, fish size, age structure, condition, and local habitat use. Fish abundance was greater in deeper channels with cooler and less variable temperatures, and these habitats were consistently occupied throughout the season. Variability in channel depth and water temperature was negatively associated with fish abundance. Fish size was negatively related to site distance from the upper extent of the tidal influence, while fish condition did not relate to channel location within the estuary ecotone. Our work demonstrates the potential this glacially-fed estuary serves as both transitional and rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon during smolt emigration to the ocean, and patterns of fish distribution within the estuary correspond to environmental conditions.
Data and Resources
Data Types: Report