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Population dynamics and asynchrony at fine spatial scales: a case history of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) population structure in Alaska, USA

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Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) exemplify the ways in which populations are structured by homing and the abiotic factors affecting their dynamics in discrete breeding and rearing habitats. What is the finest spatial scale of their population structure, and where do clusters of spatially proximate breeding groups lie along the continuum from isolated populations – metapopulation – patchy panmictic population? To investigate these questions, we monitored sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, spawning in a complex of habitats ~1 km apart, joining to form a single stream flowing into Iliamna Lake, Alaska, USA. Annual surveys revealed levels of asynchrony in productivity that were comparable with values reported for sockeye salmon spawning in separate streams flowing into lakes elsewhere in Bristol Bay. A mark–recapture study revealed very little movement of spawning adults among habitats. The ponds occupied at highest density varied among years, and salmon consistently arrived and spawned later in one pond than the others. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the salmon structured as a small-scale metapopulation rather than a single panmictic population.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. 2: Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 4, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Publication date: February 20, 2012

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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