Feeding Ecology and Growth of Juvenile Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) During Early Marine Residence Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1j92g962m

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  • The early marine phase following freshwater emigration has been identified as a critical period in salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) life history, characterized by high but variable mortality. Consistent with the “growth-mortality” and “bigger-is-better” hypotheses, at least some of the mortality during the critical period appears to be size-dependent – with smaller or slower growing individuals less likely to survive than larger, faster growing conspecifics. Size and growth are flexible morphological traits that vary with prey availability, yet there is incomplete information on the temporal and spatial match/mismatch between juvenile salmonids and their marine prey in the Northern California Current Ecosystem. This work addressed a gap in the understanding of seasonal variability in prey community composition, abundance, and quality during early marine residence. Three studies were conducted using a population of subyearling (age-0) Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) from the upper Columbia River in order to evaluate the effects of prey on salmon growth, biochemistry, and performance. The first was a laboratory study that tested for growth rate and swimming speed differences in salmon reared on three treatment diets followed by three fasting treatments to assess the effects of variability in summer diet quality and winter diet quantity. Significant differences in growth were detected among fasting treatments but not diet treatments. Also, larger salmon with more storage lipids swam faster than smaller leaner fish following fasting, indirectly supporting the notion that growth during the critical period provides a carryover benefit important for overwinter survival. Salmon fatty acids and bulk stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen were measured throughout the experiment to provide estimates of turnover and incorporation rates. The next study was a longitudinal field study that measured variation in salmon size and prey field community throughout the early ocean period (May – September) over two years of high marine survival (2011 and 2012) to better understand the relationship between prey community composition and salmon growth. Maximum growth rates were associated with high biomass of northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) which peaked in abundance at different times in each year. The final bioenergetics modeling study combined data from the laboratory and field studies to evaluate the relative importance of prey availability, prey energy density, and temperature on salmon growth. Variation in feeding rate was related most with growth rate variability and least with prey energy density. Throughout their range, subyearlings can grow at high rates in the ocean (>2% body weight per day) by consuming both invertebrate and marine fish prey. However, when marine fish prey are highly abundant they likely provide an energetic advantage over invertebrate prey by reducing overall foraging costs. Quantifying the abundance, size, diet, and distribution of juvenile salmonids relative to their prey field throughout early ocean residence will contribute to a better understanding of seasonal differences in trophic interactions that are associated with differences in annual growth and survival rates. Moreover, an integrated approach that combines sampling of prey with measurements of predator growth, diet, fatty acids, and stable isotopes provides a useful framework for assessing trophic dynamics and evaluating the effects of climate variability and change on predator and prey communities.
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