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Thermal heterogeneity, migration, and consequences for spawning potential of female bull trout in a river-reservoir system

April 3, 2020

The likelihood that fish will initiate spawning, spawn successfully, or skip spawning in a given year is conditioned in part on availability of energy reserves. We evaluated the consequences of spatial heterogeneity in thermal conditions on the energy accumulation and spawning potential of migratory bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in a regulated river–reservoir system. Based on existing data, we identified a portfolio of thermal exposures and migratory patterns and then estimated their influence on energy reserves of female bull trout with a bioenergetics model. Spawning by females was assumed to be possible if postspawning energy reserves equaled or exceeded 4 kJ/g. Given this assumption, results suggested up to 70% of the simulated fish could spawn each year. Fish that moved seasonally between a cold river segment and a warmer reservoir downstream had a greater growth rate and higher propensity to spawn in a given year (range: 40%–70%) compared with fish that resided solely in the cold river segment (25%–40%). On average, fish that spawned lost 30% of their energy content relative to their prespawn energy. In contrast, fish that skipped spawning accumulated, on average, 16% energy gains that could be used toward future gamete production. Skipped spawning occurred when water temperatures were relatively low or high, and if upstream migration occurred relatively late (mid-July or later) or early (early-May or earlier). Overall, our modeling effort suggests the configuration of thermal exposures, and the ability of bull trout to exploit this spatially and temporally variable thermal conditions can strongly influence energy reserves and likelihood of successful spawning.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Thermal heterogeneity, migration, and consequences for spawning potential of female bull trout in a river-reservoir system
DOI 10.1002/ece3.6184
Authors Joseph R. Benjamin, Dmitri T Vidergar, Jason B. Dunham
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Series Number
Index ID 70209420
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center