Processes that influence habitat selection in landscapes involve the interaction of habitat composition and configuration and are particularly important for species with complex life cycles. We assessed the relative influence of landscape spatial processes and local habitat characteristics on patterns in the distribution and abundance of spawning steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a threatened salmonid fish, across ~15,000 stream km in the John Day River basin, Oregon, USA. We used hurdle regression and a multi-model information theoretic approach to identify the relative importance of covariates representing key aspects of the steelhead life cycle (e.g., site access, spawning habitat quality, juvenile survival) at two spatial scales: within 2-km long survey reaches (local sites) and ecological neighborhoods (5 km) surrounding the local sites. Based on Akaike’s Information Criterion, models that included covariates describing ecological neighborhoods provided the best description of the distribution and abundance of steelhead spawning given the data. Among these covariates, our representation of offspring survival (growing-season-degree-days, °C) had the strongest effect size (7x) relative to other predictors. Predictive performances of model-averaged composite and neighborhood-only models were better than a site-only model based on both occurrence (percentage of sites correctly classified = 0.80±0.03 SD, 0.78±0.02 vs. 0.62±0.05, respectively) and counts (root mean square error = 3.37, 3.93 vs. 5.57, respectively). The importance of both temperature and stream flow for steelhead spawning suggest this species may be highly sensitive to impacts of land and water uses, and to projected climate impacts in the region and that landscape context, complementation, and connectivity will drive how this species responds to future environments.
Additional publication details
Spatial ecological processes and local factors predict the distribution and abundance of spawning by steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) across a complex riverscape