Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-2008

Publication Title

Ecology (Brooklyn, NY)

Abstract

Realistic population models and effective conservation strategies require a thorough understanding of mechanisms driving stage-specific mortality. Mortality bottlenecks for many species occur in the juvenile stage and are thought to result from limitation on food or foraging habitat during a "critical period" for growth and survival. Without a way to account for maternal effects or to measure integrated consumption rates in the field, it has been virtually impossible to test these relationships directly. Hence uncertainties about mechanisms underlying such bottlenecks remain. In this study we randomize maternal effects across sites and apply a new method for measuring consumption integrated over weeks to months to test the hypothesis that food limitation drives early-season juvenile mortality bottlenecks in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Using natural signatures of geologically derived cesium (133Cs), we estimated consumption rates of >400 fry stocked into six streams. Two to four weeks after stocking, consumption was extremely low across sites (0.005 g x g(-1) x d(-1)) and was predicted to be below maintenance rations (i.e., yielding negative energy balances) for the majority of individuals from five of six sites. However, consumption during this time was positively correlated with growth rates and survival (measured at the end of the growing season). In contrast, consumption rates increased in mid- (0.030 g x g(-1) x d(-1)) and late (0.035 g x g(-1) x d(-1)) seasons, but juvenile survival and consumption were not correlated, and correlations between growth and consumption were weak. These findings are consistent with predictions of a habitat-based bioenergetic model constructed using the actual stream positions of the individual fish in the present study, which indicates that habitat-based models capture important environmental determinants of juvenile growth and survival. Hence, by combining approaches, reducing maternal effects and controlling initial conditions, we offer a general framework for linking foraging with juvenile survival and present the first direct consumption-based evidence for the early season bottleneck hypothesis.

DOI

10.1890/06-1353.1

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