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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Season-specific survival and growth rates of coastal cutthroat trout across a gradient of stream sizes in southwestern British Columbia Sheldon, Kim Antoinette


To have greater predictive abilities for informed resource management guidelines for freshwater species protection and management, we need to increase our limited knowledge of the many aquatic species that inhabit small coastal streams. Coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii) are common to small streams in the Pacific Northwest and are a species of concern or threatened throughout their native range. To address knowledge needs I (1) examined the seasonal variation in survival rates of coastal cutthroat trout across a size gradient of smaller streams in coastal BC; and (2) contrasted 10th year post-harvest seasonal trout body condition and relative abundances, and thermal and physical habitats with pre-harvest and 4th year post-harvest values in small streams. The survival study used a robust mark-recapture design stratified seasonally to estimate monthly survival rates; and the streamside harvest study used a multi-year, replicated, before-after-control-impact design. Within the size range of smaller streams studied (n = 7), availability of aquatic habitat (i.e., residual depth) at low-flows was the best predictor of monthly survival rates (p = 0.011), supporting my hypothesis that greater availability of habitat confers higher survival in trout. In addition, a fitted curve suggested an asymptotic relation between water depth and survival rates; where beyond 25 cm of water, greater depth did not confer greater benefits to trout survival. Survival estimates also showed that the summer season had the lowest monthly survival rates across all streams in our study area. Post-harvest effects were not detected in trout relative abundances in the 10th year; however body condition had significantly (p < 0.001) increased in both the control and treatment streams compared to previous periods. During 2008-2009 treatment streams had comparatively higher water temperatures (0.8 – 1.5°C) than control streams. Given the cooler conditions of shaded streams in our coastal mountain region (e.g., 8-10°C); the modest warming of treatment streams may have conferred a benefit to trout growth and condition.

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