Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 158
Title: A classification of habitat types in a large river and their use by juvenile salmonids
Author: T. J. Beechie, Martin Liermann, E. M. Beamer, R. Henderson
Publication Year: 2005
Journal: Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Volume: 134
Issue: 3
Pages: 717-729

We describe six habitat types for large rivers (>100 m bank–full width), including pools, riffles, and glides in midchannel and bank edges, bar edges, and backwaters along channel margins.  Midchannel units were deeper and faster than edge units on average.  Among edge habitat types, backwater units had the lowest velocities and contained complex cover consisting mainly of wood accumulations and aquatic plants.  Banks and bars had similar velocity distributions, but banks had more complex cover such as rootwads and debris jams.  Because sampling of juvenile salmonids was ineffective in the midchannel units (electrofishing capture efficiency was low, and the units were too deep and fast to snorkel), we focused our sampling efforts on juvenile salmonid use of edge habitats during winter, spring, and late summer.  Densities of juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and coho salmon O. kisutch were highest in bank and backwater units in winter, whereas age–0 and age–1 or older steelhead densities were highest in bank units in winter.  In summer, only coho salmon densities were significantly different among edge unit types, densities being highest in banks and backwaters.  Microhabitat selection (velocity, depth, and cover type) by juvenile salmonids mirrored that in small streams, most fish occupying areas with a velocity less than 15 cm/s and wood cover.  Among ocean–type salmon, Chinook and chum salmon fry were captured in large numbers in all edge units and exhibited only slightly higher densities in low–velocity areas (<15 cm/s). 

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