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Growth, condition factor, and bioenergetics modeling link warmer stream temperatures below a small dam to reduced performance of juvenile steelhead

December 31, 2009

We investigated the growth and feeding performance of juvenile steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss using field measures and bioenergetics modeling. Juvenile steelhead populations were sampled from mid-June through August 2004 at study sites upstream and downstream of Hemlock Dam. The growth and diet of juvenile steelhead were determined for a warm (summer) and subsequent (late summer) transitional period at each study site. Empirical data on the growth and diet of juvenile steelhead and mean daily temperatures were used in a bioenergetics model to estimate the proportion of maximum consumption achieved by juvenile steelhead by site and period. Modeled estimates of feeding performance were better for juvenile steelhead at the upstream compared to the downstream site during both periods. The median condition factor of juvenile steelhead did not change over the summer at the upstream site, but showed a significant decline over time at the downstream site. A negative trend in median condition factor at the downstream site supported bioenergetics modeling results that suggested the warmer stream temperatures had a negative impact on juvenile steelhead. Bioenergetics modeling predicted a lower feeding performance for juvenile steelhead rearing downstream compared to upstream of Hemlock Dam although food availability appeared to be limited at both study sites during the warm period. Warmer water temperatures, greater diel variation, and change in diel pattern likely led to the reduced feeding performance and reduced growth, which could have affected the overall survival of juvenile steelhead downstream of Hemlock Dam. ?? 2010 by the Northwest Scientific Association.