Marine subsidies can play an important role in the growth, survival, and migratory behavior of rearing juvenile salmonids. Availability of high-energy, marine-derived food sources during critical decision windows may influence the timing of emigration or the decision to forego emigration completely and remain in the freshwater environment. Increasing growth and growth rate during these decision windows may result in an altered juvenile population structure, which will ultimately affect the adult population age-structure. We used a state dependent model to understand how the juvenile Oncorhynchus mykiss population structure may respond to increased availability of salmon eggs in their diet during critical decision windows. Our models predicted an increase in smolt production until coho salmon eggs comprised more than 50 percent of juvenile O. mykiss diet at the peak of the spawning run. At higher-than intermediate levels of egg consumption, smolt production decreased owing to increasing numbers of fish adopting a resident life-history strategy. Additionally, greater growth rates decreased the number of age-3 smolts and increased the number of age-2 smolts. Increased growth rates with higher egg consumption also decreased the age at which fish adopted the resident pathway. Our models suggest that the introduction of a high-energy food source during critical periods of the year could be sufficient to increase smolt production.
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Theoretical life history responses of juvenile Oncorhynchus mykiss to changes in food availability using a dynamic state-dependent approach