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Chemical signatures imprinted on tiny stones that form inside the ears of fish show that two of Alaska's most productive salmon populations, and the fisheries they support, depend on the entire watershed.
Sockeye and Chinook salmon born in the Nushagak River and its network of streams and lakes in southwest Alaska use the whole basin as youngsters when searching for the best places to find prey, shelter and safety from predators. From birth until the fish migrate to the ocean a year later is a critical period for young salmon to eat and grow.
Fish - Ear - Otolith—scientists - Parts - Watershed
By analyzing each fish's ear stone—called an otolith—scientists have found that different parts of the watershed are hot spots for salmon production and growth, and these favorable locations change year to year depending on how climate conditions interact with local landscape features like topography to affect the value of habitats.
The new study, led by the University of Washington, appears May 24 in Science.
Areas - Fish - Flicker - Year - Terms
"We found that the areas where fish are born and grow flicker on and off each year in terms of productivity," said lead author Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. "Habitat conditions aren't static, and optimal places shift around. If you want to stabilize fish production over the years, the only strategy is to keep all of the options on the table."
The Nushagak River watershed is the largest river basin in the Alaska's Bristol Bay region, which supports the biggest sockeye salmon fishery in the world and provides about 50 percent of wild sockeye globally. It is also known for its large run of Chinook salmon.
Study - Coincides - Efforts - Permits - Pebble
The new study coincides with renewed efforts to gain permits for the Pebble Mine, a proposed copper and gold excavation near the headwaters of the Nushagak River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers'...
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