Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 908
Title: Interacting effects of density and temperature on body size in multiple populations of Chinook salmon
Author: Lisa G. Crozier, Richard W. Zabel, Eric E. Hockersmith, Steve Achord
Publication Year: 2010
Journal: Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume: 79
Issue: 2
Pages: 342-349
Keywords: body size, endangered species, freshwater, nutrient limitation, ration

1. The size individuals attain reflects complex interactions between food availability and quality, environmental conditions and ecological interactions. A statistical interaction between temperature and the density of conspecifics is expected to arise from various ecological dynamics, including bioenergetic constraints, if population density affects mean consumption rate or activity level. Density effects on behaviour or size-selective predation could also generate this pattern. This interaction plays an important role in bioenergetic models, in particular, and yet has not been documented in natural populations. 2. The lengths of 131 286 juvenile wild Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) across 13 populations spread throughout the Salmon River Basin, Idaho, USA over 15 years were compared to test whether juvenile density alters the relationship between body size and temperature. 3. Strong evidence for a negative interaction between mean summer temperature and density emerged, despite the relatively cool temperatures in this high elevation habitat. Growth correlated positively with temperature at lower densities, but the correlation was negative at the highest densities. 4. This is the first study to document this interaction at such a large spatial and temporal scale, and suggests that warmer temperatures might intensify some density-dependent processes. How climate change will affect individual growth rates in these populations will depend intimately on ecological conditions, particularly food availability and population dynamics. More broadly, the conditions that led to the interactions observed in our study  limited food availability and temperatures that ranged above those optimal for growth  likely exist for many other natural populations, and warrant broader exploration.

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