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Functions of restored wetlands for juvenile salmon in an industrialized estuary

Ecological Engineering
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2010.11.028
  • Juvenile Salmon
  • Industrialized Estuary
  • Habitat Restoration
  • Bioenergetics
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract The Duwamish estuary is an industrialized waterway located in Seattle, WA, USA. Despite a history of habitat loss, naturally produced juvenile Chinook salmon use the estuary. In addition to experiencing degraded habitat in the estuary, wild salmon growth may be affected by competition with more than three million hatchery fish released yearly into the river. Restoring habitat to benefit salmon in the Duwamish River is a priority for trustees of public resources, and a number of wetland restoration sites have been created there. We tested the function of restored sites in the Duwamish estuary for juvenile Chinook salmon by comparing fish densities from enclosure nets or beach seines at three paired restored/un-restored sites and by applying environmental and diet data to a bioenergetics model. We also examined temporal and diet overlap of wild juvenile Chinook salmon with other salmon species and with hatchery-reared Chinook salmon using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS). At a brackish upstream site with a relatively large opening to the river, we found higher densities of juvenile Chinook salmon at the restored site. NMDS results indicated that juvenile Chinook salmon fed on different taxa at the restored sites than at the reference sites. However, modeled growth was similar at restored and reference sites. Co-occurring juvenile chum and Chinook salmon fed differently, with chum eating smaller prey, and Chinook salmon eating larger prey. Co-occurring hatchery and wild juvenile Chinook salmon had similar diets, indicating that they may compete for prey. However, modeled growth was positive and did not differ between hatchery and wild fish, suggesting that food was not limiting. Bioenergetics models indicated that overall juvenile Chinook salmon growth potential at the brackish water site was consistently higher than at more saline sites. Our results suggest that restoration sites in the Duwamish estuary that have larger access openings and are located in brackish water may have increased function over other configurations.

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