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Climate effects on growth, phenology, and survival of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka): a synthesis of the current state of knowledge and future research directions


Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is one of the most iconic and valued species of Pacific salmon. Various studies have examined the potential effects of future climate change on sockeye salmon, but there is currently no synthesis of the documented effects of climate on this species. In this paper, we present a synthesis of 80 peer-reviewed publications in the English language evaluating the effects of climate on sockeye salmon growth, phenology, and survival. The great majority of studies examined have been conducted with stocks from North America (90 % of studies). Survival (55 %) has been the most frequently studied aspect of the sockeye salmon life history in relation to climate, followed by growth (45 %) and phenology (30 %), with temperature (83.4 %) being the climate-related variable most frequently examined in such studies. Across life stages, the effects of climate-related variables have been most frequently studied on fry (36.3 %) and least studied on spawners (7.5 %). Our synthesis revealed that associations between temperature and growth, phenology, or survival have been uncovered for all the life stages of sockeye salmon, whereas relationships with other climate-related variables have been sparse. There is substantial evidence that sockeye salmon are influenced by thermal conditions experienced at regional, rather than ocean- or continental-wide scales, and that responses to temperature vary among and within stocks. The mechanisms by which climate affect sockeye salmon during the early stages in freshwater and while at sea are still poorly understood and warrant future research. More research on the effects of non-temperature, climate-related variables (e.g. stream flow, ocean pH), inter-generational and carry-over effects of climate, interaction between climate and non-climate stressors, and adaptation to climate change are also needed. Such information will be critical to advance our understanding of how sockeye salmon stocks will fare with future climate change.

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We thank Ken Ashley, Eric Taylor and two anonymous reviewers for comments. Financial support for this work was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant to SGH, a NSERC Strategic Grant to SGH and SJC, a Pacific Salmon Commission Southern Endowment Fund Grant to SGH and DAP, and a grant through the Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Habitat Research to DAP. SJC is supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program.

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Martins, E.G., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J. et al. Climate effects on growth, phenology, and survival of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka): a synthesis of the current state of knowledge and future research directions. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 22, 887–914 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-012-9271-9

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  • Anadromous salmon
  • Climate warming
  • Cumulative impacts
  • Global warming
  • Salmonids
  • Thermal effects