Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 336
Title: Effects of changing climate on zooplankton and juvenile sockeye salmon growth in southwestern Alaska
Author: D. E. Schindler, D. E. Rogers, M. D. Scheuerell, C. A. Abrey
Publication Year: 2005
Journal: Ecology
Volume: 86
Issue: 1
Pages: 198-209

 Detecting and forecasting the effects of changing climate on natural and exploited populations represent a major challenge to ecologists and resource managers.  These efforts are complicated by underlying density–dependent processes and the differential responses of predators and their prey to changing climate.  We explored the effects of density–dependence and changing climate on growth of juvenile sockeye salmon and the densities of their zooplankton prey in the Wood River system of southwestern Alaska.  We fit dynamic time–series models to data collected between 1962 and 2002 describing growth of juvenile sockeye, timing of spring ice breakup, and summer zooplankton densities.  The timing of spring breakup has moved about seven days earlier now than it was in the early 1960s.  Our analyses suggest that most of this shift has been a response to the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that persisted from the mid–1970s to the late 1990s.  This progression toward earlier spring breakup dates was associated with warmer summer water temperatures and increased zooplankton (especially Daphnia) densities, which translated into increased sockeye growth during their first year of life.  The number of spawning adults that produced each year class of sockeye had a strong negative effect on juvenile sockeye growth rates, so that the size of the density–dependent effect was, on average, twice as large as the effect of spring breakup date.  These results highlight the complexity of ecological responses to changing climate and suggest that climate warming may enhance growing conditions for juvenile salmonids in large lakes of Alaska.

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