• Longitudinal distribution patterns and habitat associations of juvenile coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch in tributaries of the Little Susitna River, Alaska

      Foley, Kevin Michael; Rosenberger, Amanda E.; Gerkin, Jonathon; Verbyla, David L.; Mueter, Franz J. (2014-05)
      Understanding how headwater streams function as rearing habitats for juvenile coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch is essential for effective population management and conservation. To inform habitat restoration activities within the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska, I determined upstream distribution limits, validated abundance estimates, and established fish habitat relationships in two headwater stream tributaries of the Little Susitna River in 2010-11. Using a low-effort, spatially continuous sampling approach and linear mixed-effects models, I related local- and landscape-scale habitat associations to abundance estimates. All-aged coho salmon composed approximately 98% of all fish sampled and inhabited the entire stream length to their upstream limits. Age-1+ fish resided in 64% and 44% of the stream length for the two sampled streams. The mean upstream elevation limit for all-aged fish in these streams was 278m and 267m. For age- 1+ fish, the upstream elevation limit in the two streams was 275m and 238m. Percent slope at the distribution limit of all-aged fish was consistent across streams at 5%, whereas percent slope for age-1+ fish correspond to 4% and 6%. Elevation and percent slope consistently described upstream distribution limits among age classes. Therefore, we must consider these landscape features when prioritizing restoration projects in headwater streams.