Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 166
Title: Effects of environmental conditions during stream, estuary, and ocean residency on Chinook salmon return rates in the Skagit River, Washington
Author: Correigh M. Greene, D. Jensen, G. R. Pess, E. M. Beamer, E. Ashley Steel
Publication Year: 2005
Journal: Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Volume: 134
Issue: 6
Pages: 1562-1581
Keywords: Chinook salmon, marine survival, freshwater habitat, floods, density dependence, nearshore habitat

We predicted 22 years of wild Chinook salmon return rates as a function of environmental conditions experienced during residency in freshwater, tidal delta, bay, and ocean habitats as well as an indicator of density dependence (based on egg production) across life stages. The best predictors of return rate included magnitude of floods experienced during incubation, a principal components factor describing environmental conditions during bay residency, a similar factor describing conditions experienced during the third ocean year, and an estimate of egg production. Our models explained up to 90% of the variation in return rate and had a very high forecasting precision, yet environmental conditions experienced during ocean residency explained only 5% of the variation. Our results suggest that returns of wild salmon can be predicted with high precision by incorporating habitat residency, and that freshwater and nearshore environmental conditions strongly influence survival of Skagit River Chinook salmon.

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