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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13185

California Current seascape influences juvenile salmon foraging ecology at multiple scales

Megan C. Sabal*, Elliott L. Hazen, Steven J. Bograd, R. Bruce MacFarlane, Isaac D. Schroeder, Sean A. Hayes, Jeffrey A. Harding, Kylie L. Scales, Peter I. Miller, Arnold J. Ammann, Brian K. Wells

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Juvenile salmon Oncorhynchus spp. experience variable mortality rates during their first few months in the ocean and high growth during this period is critical to minimize size-selective predation. Examining links between the physical environment and foraging ecology is important to understand mechanisms that drive growth. These mechanisms are complex and include interactions among the physical environment, forage availability, bioenergetics, and salmon foraging behavior. Our objectives were to explore how seascape features (biological and physical) influence juvenile Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha foraging at annual and feeding-event scales in the California Current Ecosystem. We demonstrate that forage abundance was the most influential determinant of mean salmon stomach fullness at the annual scale, while at the feeding-event scale, fullness increased with greater cumulative upwelling during the 10 days prior and at closer distances to thermal fronts. Upwelling promotes nutrient enrichment and productivity, while fronts concentrate organisms likely resulting in available prey to salmon and increased stomach fullness. Salmon were also more likely to consume krill when there was high prior upwelling and switched to non-krill invertebrates (i.e., amphipods, decapods, copepods) in weaker upwelling conditions. As salmon size increased from 72 mm to 250 mm, salmon were more likely to consume fish, equal amounts of krill, and fewer non-krill invertebrates. Broad seascape processes determined overall prey availability and fullness in a given year, while fine- and meso- scale processes influenced local accessibility of prey to individual salmon. Therefore, processes occurring at multiple scales will influence how marine organisms respond to changing environments.