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Regional differences in responses of chinook salmon populations to large-scale climatic patterns

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Abstract Aim 

To quantitatively explore the extent to which many different populations of the same species (chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) respond cohesively to a common large-scale climatic trend. Location 

The Columbia River basin of the northwestern US. Methods 

I used regression analyses to describe the downward trend in population growth (number of recruits per spawning adult) for thirteen populations of chinook salmon distributed among three geographical regions: Snake River, Upper Columbia River and Middle Columbia River. I then used residuals from these regressions to characterize per capita productivity for each brood year. Positive residuals indicated productivity higher than that predicted by the time series, while negative residuals revealed years in which productivity was lower than predicted. I next used analysis of covariance (ancova) to test the null hypothesis that associations between ocean/climate conditions and deviations from predicted population growth did not vary among geographical regions. Allancovas used residuals generated from the regressions as the response variable, geographical region as the main effect, and climatic condition [characterized by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (PDO)] as the covariate. A major climate shift occurred in 1977, and because the association of the PDO with salmon productivity varied between the pre- and post-1977 climate regimes, I analysed data from the two regimes separately. Results 

There were marked impacts of climate on salmon production that varied among geographical regions and between decade-scale climate regimes. During the pre-1977 climate regime, productivity of salmon populations from the Snake River tended to exceed expectations (i.e. residuals were positive) when values of the PDO were negative. In contrast, this pattern was not evident in populations from the upper or middle Columbia Rivers. During the post-1977 regime when ocean productivity was generally lower, the association of the PDO with salmon productivity changed – productivity tended to fall short of expectations (i.e. residuals were negative) when values of the PDO were negative. Main conclusions 

Understanding the linkages between salmon populations and climate is critical as managers attempt to preserve threatened salmon populations in the face of both natural or human-induced climate variation and the litany of human activities affecting salmon. An important step in this understanding is the recognition that the response to ocean/climate change by salmon populations of the same species and river basin is not necessarily homogeneous.
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Keywords: Chinook; Columbia River; Oncorhynchus tshawytscha; Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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