We examine the importance of stream habitat characteristics in governing variation in spawning densities of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) across 32 streams in the Fraser River Basin, British
Columbia, Canada. We used mixed-effects models to examine four competing hypotheses for the influence of abiotic stream characteristics acting on either adult salmon or embryo mortality. All models that received support using Akaike’s information criterion included stream characteristics
that are associated with cover. These included the percent area of pools, percentage of the banks that were undercut, and large woody debris (in that order). These results suggest the importance of stream characteristics, which reduce risk of predation on adults, in determining spawning sockeye
salmon densities. Thus, identification of a small number of physical characteristics of streams provides insight into ecological processes that determine population densities. This information can be used to quantify habitat quality, which can guide habitat prioritization for conservation.
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