2005: Effects of environmental conditions during stream, estuary, and ocean residency on Chinook salmon return rates in the Skagit River, WA. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 134:1562–1581.
Correigh Greene, David Jensen, George Pess, Ashley Steel
We predicted 22 years of return rates for wild Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha as a function of environmental conditions experienced during residency in freshwater, tidal delta, bay, and ocean habitats as well as as an indicator of density dependence (based on egg production) across life stages. The best predictors of return rate included the magnitude of floods experienced during incubation, a principal components factor describing environmental conditions during bay residency, a similar factor describing conditions experienced during the third ocean year, and an estimate of egg production. Our models explained up to 90% of the variation in return rate and had a very high forecasting precision, yet environmental conditions experienced during ocean residency explained only 5% of the variation. Our results suggest that returns of wild Chinook salmon can be predicted with high precision by incorporating habitat residency and that freshwater and nearshore environmental conditions strongly influence the survival of Skagit River Chinook salmon.