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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13939

Arctic char Salvelinus alpinus movement dynamics relative to ice breakup in a high Arctic embayment

Lars J. Hammer*, Nigel E. Hussey, Marianne M. Marcoux, Harri Pettitt-Wade, Kevin Hedges, Ross Tallman, Nathan B. Furey

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Arctic waters are warming rapidly due to climate change, which alters the timing of seasonal sea ice dynamics. Summer ice breakup provides a critical productivity bloom that consumers depend on. Arctic char Salvelinus alpinus undertake seasonal migrations to marine waters presumably to exploit this prey pulse. However, specific migratory timing and residency of char relative to breakup is largely unknown. To investigate char movement, individuals were tagged with acoustic transmitters in 2017 (n = 58) and 2018 (n = 52) within Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, Canada, resulting in 625482 detections. Generalized linear models were used to relate multiple movement metrics to ice conditions, as well as biological and temporal factors. Char exhibited multiple migratory patterns (chronologies), by which fish either migrated to/from rivers within Tremblay Sound (n = 67), rivers in external systems (n = 35), or a combination of both (n = 8). Fish that migrated exclusively from external systems were larger (~14 cm) than fish adopting other chronologies. Migration timing was related to chronology and preempted the specific ice-off date. Fish migrating from rivers within Tremblay Sound entered the marine environment ~7.5 d before the start of ice-off, while external migrants entered ~21 d after ice-off start. Differing migratory chronologies highlight the complexity of char migrations and may indicate the presence of subpopulations or potential ontogenetic shifts in migration behavior. Our study underscores the importance of the brief ice-free season, with potential implications for climate change resilience and management of this important resource in a changing Arctic.