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The effects of depth and salinity on juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (Walbaum) habitat choice in an artificial estuary

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Abstract:

The energetic cost for juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha to forage in habitats of different salinity and depth was quantified using a behavioural titration based on ideal free distribution theory. When given a choice between freshwater habitats of different depths (>0·83 or <0·83 m), a greater proportion of fish used the deeper habitat. When the deeper habitat was saltwater, the proportion of fish using it increased. When food was added to both the shallow freshwater and deep saline habitats, however, fish distribution returned to that observed when both habitats were fresh water. This indicates that the preference for deep saline habitats during the stratified phase was driven by some benefit associated with residency in deeper water, rather than salinity. The low perceived cost of low salinity might be in part due to the fish’s ability to minimize this cost by only making brief forays into the alternate freshwater habitat. When the food ration delivered to the more costly, shallow habitat was 50% greater than that delivered to the less costly, deep habitat, fish distributed themselves equally between the two habitats, presumably because of equal net benefits. This study demonstrates that juvenile Chinook salmon prefer deep saline habitat to shallow freshwater habitats but will make brief forays into the freshwater habitat if food availability is sufficiently high.

Keywords: depth; habitat choice; ideal free distribution; salinity; salmon

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01553.x

Affiliations: 1: Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6 Canada 2: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Center for Aquaculture and Environmental Research, 4160 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC V7V 1N6, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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