Indexing habitat opportunity for juvenile anadromous fishes in tidal-fluvial wetland systems
In intertidal wetlands, annual habitat use by migrating juvenile salmon is limited by both physical and biological constraints. Physical limits are set by inundation patterns and water quality parameters, while biological bounds are determined by species specific migration timing and seasonal residency behaviors. We developed a new metric called the fish habitat opportunity index (FHOI) to quantify the total time per calendar year that salmon could access intertidal sites, based on periods of inundation and juvenile salmon seasonal migration. The index was applied using data collected at a recently reconnected tidal freshwater wetland area during 2006-2009. We found the wetland to be accessible to different salmon species for different lengths of time and periods of the year. On average, chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) had remarkably consistent opportunities to use marsh habitat over the 4 years sampled, while opportunities were more variable for Chinook (O. tshawytscha), and coho salmon (O. kisutch). Inundation varied nonlinearly with tidal height, and fish had access to the productive marsh edge for approximately 40-50% of the time during periods of access. The FHOI is widely applicable to wetland systems throughout the tidal fluvial continuum, and provides a metric for assessing fish habitat opportunity that is more realistic than simple wetted area calculations. Finally, the FHOI affords a method of a priori comparison among potential restoration sites to help resource managers predict the likely relative benefit to juvenile salmon.
Revised: January 29, 2021 |
Published: May 1, 2021