Ecology of stream fish: insights gained from an individual-based approach to juvenile Atlantic salmon

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Ecology Of Freshwater Fish


Using data from an ongoing study of juvenile Atlantic salmon growth and survival in tributaries of the Connecticut River, USA, we compare standard population-level approaches to those focusing on individuals. We highlight the potential benefits of resampling individually tagged stream fish as compared to standard approaches. Specifically we focus on growth, survival, movements and population estimation. The advantages of estimating sizes and growth rates from individual size trajectories include obtaining growth histories and the ability to perform retrospective analysis of the consequences of different life-history strategies. An example might be the patterns of growth leading to either early maturity or migration. Resampling known individuals is the only way we know to chart both short-term and long-term movements and to assign growth and mortality consequences to such movements. Finally, individual-level data permit robust estimation of survival and density/abundance using methods such as Cormack/Jolly-Seber. The results indicate that population estimates were about 10% lower using individual data than using population data, that survival from sample to sample was typically >90%, that the majority of recaptured fish did not move during the summer, that growth was rapid during spring and most fish lost mass during the summer and that growth trajectories for maturing and non-maturing fish showed substantially different patterns. An individual-based approach to stream fish ecology provides the opportunity to explore the mechanisms responsible for population-level patterns but comes at the cost of significant field effort. Tradeoffs between increased data resolution and the effort required to obtain the data must be considered before undertaking individual-based field studies of stream fishes.








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