First Advisor

Angela Strecker

Date of Publication

Summer 8-29-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management




Coho salmon -- Behavior, Coho salmon -- Growth, Coho salmon -- Habitat



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 124 pages)


Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) rely on unique habitats during the winter season, which may dictate how much individuals may grow and when migration from freshwater rearing habitat to the ocean occurs. Here I analyze movement timing and growth patterns for coho salmon through a field-based study and a literature review. For the field portion, I examined hatchery-stocked juvenile coho salmon across four stream basins in the Russian River watershed, California to determine the relative importance of climate, landscape, and fish size metrics in predicting movement and growth patterns over a winter rearing and spring smolt outmigration time period (December 2014-June 2015). I observed three unique movement strategies: winter parr movement, spring smolt movement, and inter-tributary movement. Movement was predicted in relation to daily temperature and precipitation, followed by in-stream and upslope basin conditions in random forest modeling. Specifically, fish that moved later were associated with basins that contained higher productivity and low-gradient floodplain habitats, while fish that moved earlier came from streams that lacked invertebrate prey and had limited low-gradient rearing habitat. Fish size and timing of movement were the primary predictors of growth, with relatively larger fish in the spring growing faster than fish that were relatively smaller prior to winter. These relationships suggest that hatchery-release fish are still highly influenced by environmental conditions once released, especially in terms of initial seasonal movement, and that watershed conditions should be considered when utilizing hatchery-rearing programs to supplement wild fish populations.

In North America, coho salmon populations are distributed from Alaska through California, and may exhibit unique movement and growth patterns in relationship to population-scale vulnerability (Endangered Species Act listing), basin area, and availability and types of rearing habitat. For the second part of my thesis, I conducted a literature review to assess what factors are commonly considered in predicting movement and growth patterns for these fish, as well as the types (season and life stage) and number of movement strategies reported. Eighteen studies were summarized, of which sixteen identified unique movement strategies, ranging from one to four. Despite a wide range of basin areas and latitudes, winter parr and spring smolt movements were commonly observed, with authors primarily relating these behaviors to in-stream habitat and fish size metrics. Additionally, growth was linked positively and primarily with off-channel winter rearing, which may outweigh the importance of fish size in predicting growth when high quality rearing habitats are available during the winter season.

Recognizing movement timing diversity and its drivers can help recover threatened coho salmon populations. More widely distributed populations may have unique phenotypic expressions based on localized genetic and environmental interactions, increasing diversity and overall stability across the population, a concept known as the portfolio effect. Understanding fish-habitat relationships can aid recovery efforts by providing a framework of climatic and watershed conditions that support unique behaviors, even in already severely limited populations.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier