Reconnecting aquatic habitats : validating historical habitat use by anadromous fishes using telemetry and stable isotope analysis above barriers Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8623j225b

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  • I conducted a study to identify potential spawning habitat for anadromous salmonids above a 60-year-old hydropower dam in the headwaters of the North Umpqua River in Oregon. Like many other historical salmonid-bearing rivers, little documentation exists for anadromous fish presence above potential natural obstacles upstream of Soda Springs Dam. My prediction was that if migratory salmonids are allowed to move upstream of the dam using a new fish ladder they would utilize available upstream spawning habitat. I captured, radio-tagged, and transplanted wild adult summer steelhead, O. mykiss, above Soda Springs Dam and tracked daily movements for 1 year to observe habitat preferences. I also investigated evidence of historical anadromy throughout the North Umpqua River basin using stable isotope analysis of salmon-derived nitrogen (¹⁵N) in foliar samples from Douglas fir trees, P. menziesii, (>100 years old). I tested the hypothesis that I could identify undocumented, historical salmon spawning reaches above natural and anthropogenic obstacles based solely upon δ¹⁵N foliar deposition patterns. While tracking radio-tagged steelhead, I documented holding locations, the timing of spawning activities, and the outmigration of kelts. Tagged fish did not show any extensive movement in the river or tributaries above the dam. Most of the tagged adults showed incremental daily movements near the release site or downstream into the hydropower reservoir but did not travel further than 1 kilometer upstream in the main river channel. I recorded movements and localized activities that suggested some of the fish spawned and subsequently moved downstream towards the Pacific Ocean. My observations indicated that spawning behavior of tagged fish above Soda Springs Dam was delayed several weeks relative to fish spawning below the dam. There was no evidence from telemetry that any fish moved upstream in Fish Creek, the newly accessible habitat of interest in this project. My data suggest that steelhead will use restored habitat above dams, but that re-colonization activities are variable and may be affected by altered flow regimes within the restored habitat upstream of the dam and intra-specific density dependence. My stable isotope data indicated that the foliar δ¹⁵N deposition patterns were confounded with elevation. I documented potential "salmon-derived" false positives on the Umpqua National Forest above impassable waterfalls. Overall I found that foliar δ¹⁵N deposition patterns were highly variable and unexpectedly indicated a statistically significant negative correlation of foliar δ¹⁵N values with historical salmon presence. My linear mixed-effects modeling suggests that the presence of salmon is the most important indicator of foliar δ¹⁵N values, rather than the proximity of a sampled tree to stream flow above or below migratory barriers. I was not able to use the mixed effects model to identify previously undocumented salmon spawning habitat. My results from the foliar technique suggest that the method may not be universally applicable as has been previously suggested in the literature.
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