Bond, R.M., Kiernan, J.D., Osterback, A.K., Kern, C.H., Hay, A.E., Meko, J.M., Daniels, M.E. & Perez, J.M.

Publication Date

25 November 2021

Publication Name

Estuaries and Coasts

Thursday November 25, 2021

In California (USA), seasonal lagoons provide important oversummer rearing habitat for juvenile steelhead trout (anadromous Oncorhynchus mykiss). However, key water quality parameters such as temperature and dissolved oxygen concentration can periodically approach or exceed the physiological tolerances of steelhead during the protracted dry season. A field study employing distributed temperature sensing technology, water quality monitoring, habitat mapping, and mark-recapture sampling was conducted to examine how shifting environmental conditions affected the performance and behavior of juvenile steelhead in the Scott Creek estuary/lagoon (Santa Cruz County). Abiotic conditions were driven by episodic inputs of seawater to the typically freshwater lagoon. During midsummer, the water column was vertically stratified which reduced suitable lagoon rearing habitat by approximately 40%. Nevertheless, steelhead abundance, growth, and condition factor were high during the summer and decreased in autumn following lagoon destratification and cooling. Unlike previous work, this study identified limited emigration from the lagoon to riverine habitat during the summer. Instead, juvenile steelhead exhibited crepuscular movement patterns within the lagoon, with peaks in upstream (to upper lagoon habitat) and downstream (to lower lagoon habitat) movement occurring at dawn and dusk, respectively. This study underscores that habitat complexity and connectivity are critical for juvenile steelhead production and persistence and provides insight into steelhead habitat use and behavior in seasonal lagoons.

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