Assessing the occurrence of egg stranding for trout and salmon in a regulated river

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Abstract

A key challenge in many regulated rivers is to define adequate flow levels to protect aquatic organisms. Provisioning of suitable flow can be pivotal bottlenecks for fishes such as salmon and trout that use the riverbed as an incubation habitat. Additionally, the locations where females spawn will define the probability that embryos will be dewatered during the incubation period in a regulated flow regime. We investigated the water flow, dewatering, and incubation mortality in Atlantic salmon and brown trout in natural nests over 19 years in the regulated Bjoreio River in western Norway. During the study period, different flow strategies were applied to mitigate the dewatering of incubating salmon and trout embryos. Average survival in nests sampled in late winter ranged from 54% to 92% among years and was significantly correlated with the minimum water flow occurring during the incubation period. Mortality was significantly higher in nests in shallow areas, reflecting nests exposed to dewatering. The results demonstrate a strong link between incubation mortality and managed flow regimes for river spawning salmonids. Using detailed information on the nest location and incubation mortality, we estimate minimum flow requirements for this river and demonstrate an approach to effectively mitigate the impact of river regulations on embryo survival in Atlantic salmon and brown trout.

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Skoglund, H., Vollset, K. W., Wiers, T., & Barlaup, B. T. (2023). Assessing the occurrence of egg stranding for trout and salmon in a regulated river. River Research and Applications, 39(4), 768–776. https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.4099

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