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Spatial correlation patterns in coastal environmental variables and survival rates of salmon in the north-east Pacific Ocean

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We examined spatial correlations for three coastal variables [upwelling index, sea surface temperature (SST), and sea surface salinity (SSS)] that might affect juvenile salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) during their early marine life. Observed correlation patterns in environmental variables were compared with those in survival rates of pink (O. gorbuscha), chum (O. keta), and sockeye (O. nerka) salmon stocks to help identify appropriate variables to include in models of salmon productivity. Both the upwelling index and coastal SST were characterized by strong positive correlations at short distances, which declined slowly with distance in the winter months, but much more rapidly in the summer. The SSS had much weaker and more variable correlations at all distances throughout the year. The distance at which stations were no longer correlated (spatial decorrelation scale) was largest for the upwelling index (> 1000 km), intermediate for SST (400–800 km in summer), and shortest for SSS (< 400 km). Survival rate indices of salmon showed moderate positive correlations among adjacent stocks that decreased to zero at larger distances. Spatial decorrelation scales ranged from approximately 500 km for sockeye salmon to approximately 1000 km for chum salmon. We conclude that variability in the coastal marine environment during summer, as well as variability in salmon survival rates, are dominated by regional scale variability of several hundred to 1000 km. The correlation scale for SST in the summer most closely matched the observed correlation scales for survival rates of salmon, suggesting that regional-scale variations in coastal SST can help explain the observed regional-scale covariation in survival rates among salmon stocks.

Keywords: Decorrelation scale; Pacific salmon; sea surface salinity; sea surface temperature; spatial correlation; survival rate; upwelling

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6, 2: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Biological Station, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada V9R 5K6

Publication date: July 1, 2002


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