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Migration strategies supporting salmonids in Arctic Rivers: A case study of Arctic Cisco and Dolly Varden

December 22, 2021

Amphidromous fish such as Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) and Arctic Cisco (Coregonus autumnalis) have distinct life histories that facilitate their success in Arctic environments. Both species spawn in freshwater and make annual migrations between marine, brackish, or freshwater environments. Dolly Varden rear for one or more years in freshwater before migrating to sea whereas Arctic Cisco migrate to sea during their first summer. By contrast, Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) spawn in freshwater, but once they smolt and go to sea they remain there until they mature and return to spawn. Salmon migrate at variable ages depending on species. Arctic marine environments offer productive food resources during summer, but during winter they are too cold for salmonids that lack antifreeze proteins. To avoid the cold sea during winter, Dolly Varden return to freshwater while Arctic Cisco overwinter in brackish estuaries. The lack of migration back to freshwater for overwintering helps explain why Pacific salmon success is limited in Arctic waters and suggests major increases in success will not be realized until Arctic seas provide suitable overwinter conditions. In this paper we contrast these migration strategies, discuss potential changes in a warming Arctic, and highlight information needs especially for juvenile fish.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Migration strategies supporting salmonids in Arctic Rivers: A case study of Arctic Cisco and Dolly Varden
DOI 10.1515/ami-2020-0115
Authors Michael P. Carey, Vanessa R. von Biela, Randy J Brown, Christian E. Zimmerman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Animal Migrations
Series Number
Index ID 70228445
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB