This is the publisher’s final pdf. The published article is copyrighted by Inter-Research and can be found at: http://www.int-res.com/journals/meps/meps-home/. To the best of our knowledge, one or more authors of this paper were federal employees when contributing to this work.Early ocean residence is considered a critical period for juvenile salmon although specific survival mechanisms are often unidentified and may vary by species or life stage. Columbia River spring-run Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha abundance has declined dramatically since the early 1900s. To elucidate mechanisms of early marine survival, we tested the ‘bigger-is-better’ and ‘stage-duration’ aspects of the ‘growth-mortality’ hypothesis, which posits that size and growth rate are important for future abundance. We tested the ‘match-mismatch’ hypothesis to determine whether early marine growth was related to indices related to regional productivity, including spring transition timing and copepod community composition. We generated estimates of individual size at ocean entry and capture, marine growth rate, early marine migration rate, and emigration timing using data from ocean surveys, genetic stock-assignment, and otolith analyses of juveniles collected across 8 yr between 1998 and 2008. Size at capture and marine growth rate after ~30 d marine residence were positively related to future adult returns, whereas size at marine entry was not. Growth rate was not significantly related to indices of secondary production, but size at capture was significantly greater when lipid-rich copepods dominated. Although future adult abundance was not related to emigration timing, juveniles migrated more slowly when copepod biomass was high, perhaps responding to foraging conditions. Overall, processes during early ocean residence appear to be more important for cohort size establishment than those at marine entry. Approaches that combine genetic and otolith analyses have great potential to provide information on stock-specific variation in survival mechanisms
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