Temperature-associated population diversity in salmon confers benefits to mobile consumers

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Abstract

Habitat heterogeneity can generate intraspecific diversity through local adaptation of populations. While it is becoming increasingly clear that population diversity can increase stability in species abundance, less is known about how population diversity can benefit consumers that can integrate across population diversity in their prey. Here we demonstrate cascading effects of thermal heterogeneity on trout-salmon interactions in streams where rainbow trout rely heavily on the seasonal availability of anadromous salmon eggs. Water temperature in an Alaskan stream varied spatially from 58C to 17.58C, and spawning sockeye salmon showed population differentiation associated with this thermal heterogeneity. Individuals that spawned early in cool regions of the 5 km long stream were genetically differentiated from those spawning in warmer regions later in the season. Sockeye salmon spawning generates a pulsed resource subsidy that supports the majority of seasonal growth in stream-dwelling rainbow trout. The spatial and temporal structuring of sockeye salmon spawn timing in our focal stream extended the duration of the pulsed subsidy compared to a thermally homogeneous stream with a single population of salmon. Further, rainbow trout adopted movement strategies that exploited the multiple pulses of egg subsidies in the thermally heterogeneous stream. Fish that moved to track the resource pulse grew at rates about 2.5 times higher than those that remained stationary or trout in the reference stream with a single seasonal pulse of eggs. Our results demonstrate that habitat heterogeneity can have important effects on the population diversity of dominant species, and in turn, influence their value to species that prey upon them. Therefore, habitat homogenization may have farther-reaching ecological effects than previously considered. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America.

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Ruff, C. P., Schindle, D. E., Armstrong, J. B., Bentle, K. T., Brooks, G. T., Holtgrieve, G. W., … Seeb, J. E. (2011). Temperature-associated population diversity in salmon confers benefits to mobile consumers. Ecology, 92(11), 2073–2084. https://doi.org/10.1890/10-1762.1

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