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Trophic ontogeny of fluvial Bull Trout and seasonal predation on Pacific Salmon in a riverine food web

June 1, 2015

Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus are typically top predators in their host ecosystems. The Skagit River in northwestern Washington State contains Bull Trout and Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytschapopulations that are among the largest in the Puget Sound region and also contains a regionally large population of steelhead O. mykiss (anadromous Rainbow Trout). All three species are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Our objective was to determine the trophic ecology of Bull Trout, especially their role as predators and consumers in the riverine food web. We seasonally sampled distribution, diets, and growth of Bull Trout in main-stem and tributary habitats during 2007 and winter–spring 2008. Consumption rates were estimated with a bioenergetics model to (1) determine the annual and seasonal contributions of different prey types to Bull Trout energy budgets and (2) estimate the potential impacts of Bull Trout predation on juvenile Pacific salmon populations. Salmon carcasses and eggs contributed approximately 50% of the annual energy budget for large Bull Trout in main-stem habitats, whereas those prey types were largely inaccessible to smaller Bull Trout in tributary habitats. The remaining 50% of the energy budget was acquired by eating juvenile salmon, resident fishes, and immature aquatic insects. Predation on listed Chinook Salmon and steelhead/Rainbow Trout was highest during winter and spring (January–June). Predation on juvenile salmon differed between the two study years, likely due to the dominant odd-year spawning cycle for Pink Salmon O. gorbuscha. The population impact on ocean- and stream-type Chinook Salmon was negligible, whereas the impact on steelhead/Rainbow Trout was potentially very high. Due to the ESA-listed status of Bull Trout, steelhead, and Chinook Salmon, the complex trophic interactions in this drainage provide both challenges and opportunities for creative adaptive management strategies.

Publication Year 2015
Title Trophic ontogeny of fluvial Bull Trout and seasonal predation on Pacific Salmon in a riverine food web
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2015.1035452
Authors Erin D. Lowery, David A. Beauchamp
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Index ID 70191817
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle