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Landscape characteristics and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) distributions: explaining abundance versus occupancy

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Distribution of fishes, both occupancy and abundance, is often correlated with landscape-scale characteristics (e.g., geology, climate, and human disturbance). Understanding these relationships is essential for effective conservation of depressed populations. We used landscape characteristics to explain the distribution of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in the Oregon Plan data set, one of the first long-term, probabilistic salmon monitoring data sets covering the full range of potential habitats. First we compared data structure and model performance between the Oregon Plan data set and two published data sets on coho salmon distribution. Most of the variation in spawner abundance occurred between reaches but much also occurred between years, limiting potential model performance. Similar suites of landscape predictors are correlated with coho salmon distribution across regions and data sets. We then modeled coho salmon spawner distribution using the Oregon Plan data set and determined that landscape characteristics could not explain presence vs. absence of spawners but that the percentage of agriculture, winter temperature range, and the intrinsic potential of the stream could explain some variation in abundance (weighted average R 2 = 0.30) where spawners were present. We conclude that the previous use of nonrandom monitoring data sets may have obscured understanding of species distribution, and we suggest minor modifications to large-scale monitoring programs.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, Seattle, WA 98112, USA. 2: USDA Forest Service and Oregon State University, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA. 3: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 28655 Hwy 34 Corvallis, OR 97333, USA. 4: Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, c/o USEPA, Western Ecology Division, 200 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA.

Publication date: March 17, 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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