Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 110
Title: The interplay between climate variability and density dependence in the population viability of Chinook salmon
Author: Richard W. Zabel, M. D. Scheuerell, Michelle M. McClure, John G. Williams
Publication Year: 2006
Journal: Conservation Biology
Volume: 20
Issue: 1
Pages: 190-200

The viability of populations is influenced by driving forces such as density dependence and climate variability, but most population viability analyses (PVAs) ignore these factors because of data limitations.  Additionally, simplified PVAs produce limited measures of population viability such as annual population growth rate (λ) or extinction risk.  Here we developed a mechanistic PVA of threatened Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in which, based on 40 years of detailed data, we related freshwater recruitment of juveniles to density of spawners, and third–year survival in the ocean to monthly indices of broad–scale ocean and climate conditions.  Including climate variability in the model produced important effects: estimated population viability was very sensitive to assumptions of future climate conditions and the autocorrelation contained in the climate signal increased mean population abundance while increasing probability of quasi extinction.  Because of the presence of density dependence in the model, however, we could not distinguish among alternative climate scenarios through mean λ values, emphasizing the importance of considering multiple measures to elucidate population viability.  Our sensitivity analyses demonstrated that the importance of particular parameters varied across models and depended on which viability measure was the response variable.  The density–dependent parameter associated with freshwater recruitment was consistently the most important, regardless of viability measure, suggesting that increasing juvenile carrying capacity is important for recovery.   

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