Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 99, Issue 1, pp 49–65 | Cite as

Seasonal cues of Arctic grayling movement in a small Arctic stream: the importance of surface water connectivity

  • Kurt C. HeimEmail author
  • Mark S. Wipfli
  • Matthew S. Whitman
  • Christopher D. Arp
  • Jeff Adams
  • Jeffrey A. Falke


In Arctic ecosystems, freshwater fish migrate seasonally between productive shallow water habitats that freeze in winter and deep overwinter refuge in rivers and lakes. How these movements relate to seasonal hydrology is not well understood. We used passive integrated transponder tags and stream wide antennae to track 1035 Arctic grayling in Crea Creek, a seasonally flowing beaded stream on the Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. Migration of juvenile and adult fish into Crea Creek peaked in June immediately after ice break-up in the stream. Fish that entered the stream during periods of high flow and cold stream temperature traveled farther upstream than those entering during periods of lower flow and warmer temperature. We used generalized linear models to relate migration of adult and juvenile fish out of Crea Creek to hydrology. Most adults migrated in late June – early July, and there was best support (Akaike weight = 0.46; w i ) for a model indicating that the rate of migration increased with decreasing discharge. Juvenile migration occurred in two peaks; the early peak consisted of larger juveniles and coincided with adult migration, while the later peak occurred shortly before freeze-up in September and included smaller juveniles. A model that included discharge, minimum stream temperature, year, season, and mean size of potential migrants was most strongly supported (w i  = 0.86). Juvenile migration rate increased sharply as daily minimum stream temperature decreased, suggesting fish respond to impending freeze-up. We found fish movements to be intimately tied to the strong seasonality of discharge and temperature, and demonstrate the importance of small stream connectivity for migratory Arctic grayling during the entire open-water period. The ongoing and anticipated effects of climate change and petroleum development on Arctic hydrology (e.g. reduced stream connectivity, earlier peak flows, increased evapotranspiration) have important implications for Arctic freshwater ecosystems.


Arctic grayling Movement Migration Arctic Coastal Plain Environmental cues Seasonality 



This work was supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Additional support for collection of hydrologic data used in this study was provided by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the National Science Foundation’s Alaska EPSCoR (IIA-1208927). Thanks to A. Seitz and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript, J. McFarland for helping with many aspects of fieldwork, field technicians L. Flynn, N. Sather (who also provided the image for Fig. 1), L. Vanden Busch, and S. Yokom, and to M. Heim for her continued encouragement. This work was conducted under IACUC protocols #309893. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt C. Heim
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mark S. Wipfli
    • 3
  • Matthew S. Whitman
    • 4
  • Christopher D. Arp
    • 5
  • Jeff Adams
    • 6
  • Jeffrey A. Falke
    • 3
  1. 1.Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Ecology DepartmentMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Arctic Field OfficeFairbanksUSA
  5. 5.Water and Environmental Research Center, Institute of Northern EngineeringUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fisheries and Habitat Restoration BranchFairbanks Fish and Wildlife Field OfficeFairbanksUSA

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