Effects of discharge and local density on the growth of juvenile Atlantic salmon Salmo salar
The study explored the combined effects of density, physical habitat and different discharge levels on the growth of juvenile Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in artificial streams, by manipulating flow during both summer and winter conditions. Growth was high during all four summer trials and increased linearly with discharge and mean velocity. Differences in fish densities (fish m−3) due to differences in stream volume explained a similar proportion of the variation in mean growth among discharge treatments. Within streams, the fish aggregated in areas of larger sediment size, where shelters were probably abundant, while growth decreased with increasing densities. Fish appeared to favour the availability of shelter over maximization of growth. Mean growth was negative during all winter trials and did not vary among discharge treatments. These results suggest that increased fish densities are a major cause of reduced summer growth at low discharge, and that habitat-mediated density differences explain the majority of the growth variation across habitat conditions both during summer and winter.