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Resource pulses level the playing field and benefit ‘underdog’ stream fishes

Researchers from the Salmon Watershed Lab have found when salmon returns are high, smaller and less dominant fishes get a chance to feast on their eggs.


For their study, recently published in Ecosphere, PhD candidate Colin Bailey and Professor Jonathan Moore experimented with adding between six and 3,575 pink salmon eggs to different stretches of the Keogh River on Vancouver Island.


To determine which species and what sizes of fish were eating the salmon eggs, fish were caught, lightly anesthetized and their stomachs flushed before a recovery and release back into the stream. This helped the researchers to see how the sudden abundance of food was disrupting the normal dominance hierarchy among stream fishes.


They found that less dominant fish, such as young Coho salmon, small steelhead trout, and bottom-dwelling sculpins benefited from large quantities of salmon eggs in these experiments.


When food is regular and sparse, the largest fish in a stream will generally dominate and eat the food but when salmon eggs are abundant during years of high salmon returns, these larger fish get full and the rest of the fish in the food web can feast.


The current study suggests that declines in the number of spawning salmon could impact food resources for the entire fish communities. In the Keogh River, pink salmon runs typically produce abundant drifting salmon eggs in years of high returns. In other rivers in British Columbia, large pink, chum or sockeye salmon runs have the potential to generate similar feeding opportunities for ‘underdog’ fishes.


Media: SFU Press Release980CKW, CFAX1070, Victoria News.

Latest News

Sep 18, 2020 - Congratulations PhD candidate Colin Bailey and Jon on the publication of their paper on the effect of resource pulses on competition among fishes.


Sep 14, 2020 - Our Gallery has been updated with photos from recent fieldwork to the Taku River and Keogh River.

Sep 1, 2020 - We welcome four new grad students this Fall semester: Julie Charbonneau (PhD candidate), Julian Gan (MSc student), Sara Tremblay-Boyer (MREM student) and Kate McGivney (MSc student).

Aug 26, 2020 - Jon and collaborators are looking for a postdoc/programmer to work on stressors and cumulative effects in salmon watersheds. Start date: ASAP. The project would be associated with DFO scientist Eva Enders and BC scientist Jordan Rosenfeld (link).

Jul 29, 2020 - Jon Moore's contribution to the 2020 State of the Mountains report, "Mining in the Mountains", is now available online.

Jul 20, 2020 - Emma Hodgson (previous post-doc) has had a feature article in Canadian Geographic ("The voices we pay attention to") and a research paper ("Migratory diversity in an Arctic fish supporting subsistence harvest") published this past week.

Jul 2, 2020 - The Moore Lab's Koeye Salmon Ecology project was featured in a story on "Decolonizing ecology."


Jun 24, 2020 - Congrats Jon Moore on your recent collaborative paper: "Considering Indigenous Peoples and local communities in governance of the global ocean commons."

May 26, 2020 - Check out our latest COVID-19-inspired Notes From the Field.

May 4, 2020 - Congratulations Alex Sawyer (MSc student) and Jon Moore on the publication of their insights from the 2019 AFS Pacific salmon science symposium. Those with Fisheries Magazine access can read it here.


Apr 27, 2020 - Congratulations Will Atlas (previous PhD student), Jon Moore and Kara Pitman (PhD student) on the publication of their paper on using lake productivity to evaluate data-poor sockeye populations. Read the paper.


Apr 24, 2020 - Jon Moore was also co-author on a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology, on "Prioritizing conservation actions for Pacific salmon in Canada."

Show More

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