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Floodplain rearing of juvenile chinook salmon: evidence of enhanced growth and survival

Publication: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
February 2001


In this study, we provide evidence that the Yolo Bypass, the primary floodplain of the lower Sacramento River (California, U.S.A.), provides better rearing and migration habitat for juvenile chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) than adjacent river channels. During 1998 and 1999, salmon increased in size substantially faster in the seasonally inundated agricultural floodplain than in the river, suggesting better growth rates. Similarly, coded-wire-tagged juveniles released in the floodplain were significantly larger at recapture and had higher apparent growth rates than those concurrently released in the river. Improved growth rates in the floodplain were in part a result of significantly higher prey consumption, reflecting greater availability of drift invertebrates. Bioenergetic modeling suggested that feeding success was greater in the floodplain than in the river, despite increased metabolic costs of rearing in the significantly warmer floodplain. Survival indices for coded-wire-tagged groups were somewhat higher for those released in the floodplain than for those released in the river, but the differences were not statistically significant. Growth, survival, feeding success, and prey availability were higher in 1998 than in 1999, a year in which flow was more moderate, indicating that hydrology affects the quality of floodplain rearing habitat. These findings support the predictions of the flood pulse concept and provide new insight into the importance of the floodplain for salmon.


Notre étude démontre que le canal de dérivation Yolo, la principale plaine d'inondation de la région aval de la rivière Sacramento (Californie, É.-U.), offre de meilleurs habitats pour l'alevinage et la migration des jeunes Saumons Quinnat (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha) que les bras adjacents de la rivière. En 1998 et 1999, la taille des saumons a augmenté plus rapidement dans la plaine d'inondation agricole, sujette aux débordements saisonniers de crue, que dans la rivière, ce qui laisse croire à de meilleurs taux de croissance. De plus, des jeunes saumons marqués à l'aide de fils de métal codés et relâchés dans la plaine d'inondation étaient plus gros au moment de leur recapture et avaient des taux de croissance apparente plus élevés que des poissons relâchés dans la rivière en même temps. L'amélioration des taux de croissance dans la plaine de débordement résultait en partie d'une consommation significativement plus importante de proies, le reflet d'une plus grande disponibilité des invertébrés de la dérive. Un modèle bioénergétique laisse croire que le succès de l'alimentation a été meilleur dans la plaine d'inondation que dans la rivière, en dépit du coût métabolique d'alevinage significativement plus grand dans les eaux plus chaudes de la plaine d'inondation. Les indices de survie des poissons marqués et relâchés dans la plaine d'inondation étaient quelque peu plus élevés que ceux des poissons de la rivière, mais les différences n'étaient pas statistiquement significatives. La croissance, la survie, le succès de l'alimentation et la disponibilité des proies étaient tous supérieurs en 1998 par comparaison avec 1999, une année à débit plus modéré, ce qui indique que l'hydrologie affecte la qualité des habitats d'alevinage dans la plaine d'inondation. Nos résultats appuient les prédictions du concept de pulsion de crue (flood pulse concept) et mettent en lumière l'importance de la plaine d'inondation pour le saumon.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume 58Number 2February 2001
Pages: 325 - 333


Version of record online: 12 April 2011


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184. Physical and ecological response to disturbance by gravel mining in a large alluvial river
185. Dietary Segregation of Pelagic and Littoral Fish Assemblages in a Highly Modified Tidal Freshwater Estuary
186. Genetic Stock Composition of Subyearling Chinook Salmon in Seasonal Floodplain Wetlands of the Lower Willamette River, Oregon
187. Ephemeral floodplain habitats provide best growth conditions for juvenile Chinook salmon in a California river
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198. Use of seasonal freshwater wetlands by fishes in a temperate river floodplain
199. Outmigration of Juvenile Chinook Salmon in the Lower Willamette River, Oregon
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214. Effects of gravel augmentation on macroinvertebrate assemblages in a regulated California River
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216. Habitat Factors Affecting Sockeye Salmon Redd Site Selection in Off-Channel Ponds of a River Floodplain
217. Fish assemblages of perennial floodplain ponds of the Sacramento River, California (USA), with implications for the conservation of native fishes
218. Effects of flow variation on channel and floodplain biota and habitats of the Sacramento River, California, USA
219. Fish community structure and environmental correlates in the highly altered southern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
220. Implications of Floodplain Isolation and Connectivity on the Conservation of an Endangered Minnow, Oregon Chub, in the Willamette River, Oregon
221. Spawning and Rearing of Splittail in a Model Floodplain Wetland

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