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The influence of population dynamics and environmental conditions on pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) recolonization after barrier removal in the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada

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When barriers are removed, what biotic and abiotic factors determine how fish populations will colonize newly available habitats? We used counts of adult pink salmon (Oncorhywnchus gorbuscha) from 1947 to 1987 in 66 streams of the Fraser River system, British Columbia, Canada, to determine when colonizing pink salmon populations became self-sustaining after a long-term migration blockage at Hell’s Gate (river kilometre 209) was reduced. The abundance of salmon in available habitats were largely controlled by extrinsic factors such as an initially large source population, high intrinsic growth rates linked to favorable climate-driven conditions, a constant supply of dispersers, and large amounts of newly available habitat. Temporal variation in flows at Hell’s Gate also affected recolonization success. Self-sustaining populations were developed within years of barrier removal and have continued to help expand the overall population of Fraser River pink salmon. However, pink salmon were considerably more abundant in the early 1900s than in the 1980s (∼48 million vs. ∼2.7 million), and the majority of spawning shifted from the historic areas above Hell’s Gate prior to the rockslide to below Hell’s Gate in the lower Fraser River after the long-term blockage was reduced, so the system has not returned to the former abundance and distribution patterns.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 3550020, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. 2: Seafood Ecology Research Group, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Social Sciences and Math Building, P.O. Box 3060 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada.

Publication date: May 5, 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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