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Effects of predator and flow manipulation on Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) survival in an imperiled estuary

Abstract

We evaluated the effects of non-native, piscivorous fish removal and artificial flow manipulation on survival and migration speed of juvenile Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, emigrating through the eastern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta of California (Delta) using a Before-After-Control-Impact study design. Acoustically-tagged salmon survival increased significantly after the first predator reduction in the impact reach. However, survival estimates returned to pre-impact levels after the second predator removal. When an upstream control gate opened (increasing flow and decreasing tidal effect) juvenile salmon emigration time decreased and survival increased significantly through the impact reach. Though a short-term, single season experiment, our results demonstrate that predator control and habitat manipulation in the Delta tidal transition zone can be effective management strategies to enhance salmon survival in this highly altered system.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support for this work was provided by the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency. We gratefully acknowledge the East Bay Municipal Utility District Fisheries and Wildlife Office and all field staff that helped develop and collect data for this study, and the collaborative support of the California Department of Fish and Game staff of the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery. N. Christensen and P. Kuechle offered valuable input on data filtering. K. Jones and C. Watry provided significant project management and data analysis support. R. Sitts, P. Brandes, L. Fryer, and two anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bradley Cavallo.

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Cavallo, B., Merz, J. & Setka, J. Effects of predator and flow manipulation on Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) survival in an imperiled estuary. Environ Biol Fish 96, 393–403 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-012-9993-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-012-9993-5

Keywords

  • Predation
  • Telemetry
  • Tidal
  • Flows
  • Sacramento—San Joaquin Delta