Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 529
Title: Seasonal variations in stable isotope ratios of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) from western Washington rivers
Author: W. L. Reichert, Correigh M. Greene, R. E. Bilby
Publication Year: 2008
Journal: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume: 65
Issue: 4
Pages: 681-690

 Salmon carcasses provide a marine derived nutrient (MDN) subsidy to river systems, but the extent to which it affects juvenile salmon growth is unclear.  To evaluate temporal and spatial nutrient contributions from watershed sources and MDNs using stable isotopes, Skagit River (Washington, USA) juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) were collected.  Muscle samples were taken from fry through smolts to measure temporal changes in δ15N and δ13C.  15N and δ13C levels declined from emergence until fall, when they approached values for resident cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) collected above anadromous barriers.  Muscle δ13C was highly variable and did not increase subsequently.  However, coho salmon δ15N increased during the winter.  March coho salmon parr δ15N levels suggested high variability in carcass availability for consumption.  During the next spring, δ15N levels again declined.  In Griffin Creek, a Snoqualmie River tributary, a significant relationship between carcass density and δ15N and δ13C levels was found in March coho salmon parr.  At high spawner densities, some parr δ15N exceeded carcass values; however, parr δ13C increased moderately.  These findings show that stable isotope data provide insights on seasonal sources of nutrients.  In addition, results indicate that March coho salmon parr δ15N levels would be a useful index of carcass availability for overwintering juvenile consumption.

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