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Evaluating coexistence of fish species with coastal cutthroat trout in low order streams of western Oregon and Washington, USA

January 30, 2021

When multiple species of fish coexist there are a host of potential ways through which they may interact, yet there is often a strong focus on studies of single species without considering these interactions. For example, many studies of forestry–stream interactions in the Pacific Northwest have focused solely on the most prevalent species: Coastal cutthroat trout. To examine the potential for interactions of other fishes with coastal cutthroat trout, we conducted an analysis of 281 sites in low order streams located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and along the central Oregon coast. Coastal cutthroat trout and juvenile coho salmon were the most commonly found salmonid species within these streams and exhibited positive associations with each other for both presence and density. Steelhead were negatively associated with the presence of coastal cutthroat trout as well as with coho salmon and sculpins (Cottidae). Coastal cutthroat trout most frequently shared streams with juvenile coho salmon. For densities of these co-occurring species, associations between these two species were relatively weak compared to the strong influences of physical stream conditions (size and gradient), suggesting that physical conditions may have more of an influence on density than species interactions. Collectively, our analysis, along with a review of findings from prior field and laboratory studies, suggests that the net effect of interactions between coastal cutthroat trout and coho salmon do not appear to inhibit their presence or densities in small streams along the Pacific Northwest.