Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4510
Title: Spatial variability buffers temporal fluctuations in early juvenile survival for an endangered Pacific salmon
Author: James T. Thorson, M. D. Scheuerell, E. Buhle, Tim Copeland
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume: 83
Issue: 1
Pages: 157-167
Keywords: Portfolio effect,random effects,Chinook salmon,juvenile survival

1.  Spatial, phenotypic and genetic diversity at relatively small scales can buffer species against large-scale processes such as climate change that tend to synchronize populations and increase temporal variability in overall abundance or production.  This portfolio effect generally results in improved biological and economic outcomes for managed species.  Previous evidence for the portfolio effect in salmonids has arisen from examinations of time series of adult abundance, but we lack evidence of spatial buffering of temporal variability in demographic rates such as survival of juveniles during their first year of life.

2.  We therefore use density-dependent population models with multiple random effects to represent synchronous (similar among populations) and asynchronous (different among populations) temporal variability as well as spatial variability in survival.  These are fitted to 25 years of survey data for breeding adults and surviving juveniles from 15 demographically distinct populations of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) within a single metapopulation in the Snake River in Idaho, USA.

3.  Model selection identifies the most support for the model that included both synchronous and asynchronous temporal variability, in addition to spatial variability.  Asynchronous variability (log-SD = 0·55) is approximately equal in magnitude to synchronous temporal variability (log-SD = 0·67), but much lower than spatial variability (log-SD = 1·11).  We also show that the pairwise correlation coefficient, a common measure of population synchrony, is approximated by the estimated ratio of shared and total variance, where both approaches yield a synchrony estimate of 0·59.  We therefore find evidence for spatial buffering of temporal variability in early juvenile survival, although between-population variability that persists over time is also large.

4. We conclude that spatial variation decreases interannual changes in overall juvenile production, which suggests that conservation and restoration of spatial diversity will improve population persistence for this metapopulation.  However, the exact magnitude of spatial buffering depends upon demographic parameters such as adult survival that may vary among populations and is proposed as an area of future research using hierarchical life cycle models.  We recommend that future sampling of this metapopulation employ a repeated-measure sampling design to improve estimation of early juvenile carrying capacity.


We fit a Bayesian model to spawner-recruit data for 25 years and 11 populations of Chinook salmon in the Upper Snake River, and find that asynchronous temporal variability in productivity (i.e. maximum recruits per spawner) will cause overall abundance to be buffered by spatial diversity (e.g., different populations will be more or less productive in different years).

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Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Characterize the interaction of human use and habitat distribution, quantity and quality.