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Riverscape Heterogeneity in Estimated Chinook Salmon Emergence Phenology and Implications for Size and Growth

Aug 9, 2022


Many salmonid-bearing rivers exhibit thermal and hydrologic heterogeneity at multiple spatial and temporal scales, but how this translates into spatiotemporal patterns of fry emergence is poorly understood. Understanding this variability is important because emergence timing determines the biophysical conditions fish first experience (e.g., temperature, flow, and food supply), thereby influencing growth opportunities and survival during this critical life stage. We predicted spring Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) emergence phenology across four northeastern Oregon subbasins over 5–9 years using empirical spawning and temperature data. We then related interannual emergence timing estimates to juvenile salmon size and growth rates at consistent sampling locations. There were clear longitudinal patterns of predicted emergence timing in each subbasin: The shape of these patterns was consistent among years, but not among subbasins. In two subbasins, emergence occurred progressively later with distance upstream, whereas in the other two subbasins emergence was earliest at upstream sites. Within each year, median emergence dates among sites within each subbasin ranged between 44 and 58 days. This spatial variation was comparable to interannual variation, with median emergence dates for a given location in each subbasin ranging between 47 and 74 days among years. Contrary to our expectations, juvenile salmon were not larger in years with earlier emergence, owing to slower estimated spring and summer growth rates compared to years with later emergence. Despite large interannual variation in estimated emergence dates, these results suggest that other factors (e.g., stream flow, temperature, and density-dependence) were more important than growth duration in determining juvenile salmon growth rates and size among years. We demonstrated considerable spatial and interannual variation in emergence phenology within these subbasins. Understanding how this variation translates to spatiotemporal patterns of juvenile salmon habitat use, growth, and survival has important implications for guiding restoration efforts and understanding how climate change may impact these populations.


Matthew Kaylor, Jonathan Armstrong, Joseph Lemanski, Casey Justice, and Seth White


Kaylor, M.J., J.B. Armstrong, J.T. Lemanski, C. Justice, and S.M. White. 2022. Riverscape heterogeneity in estimated Chinook Salmon emergence phenology and implications for size and growth. Ecosphere 13(7):e4160. Online at



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Journal Article