Habitat utilization and preferences in juvenile atlantic salmon (salmo salar) in streams



Young Atlantic salmon appear to occupy similar suitable stream habitats year round. The salmon is stationary, often associated with “home stones”. At low water temperatures in winter, the fish seek shelter in the substrate, which has to be coarse enough to provide interstices for the fish to hide in. In summer, salmon select habitats within tolerable ranges of habitat variables, rather than narrow optima. It is suggested that a genetic basis to habitat evaluation allows incorporation of the full range of behavioural responses. This is important as partially different habitats may be selected in diverse streams. Habitat availability influences both habitat use and habitat preferences. Suitable summer habitats have depths in the range 5–90 cm; mean water velocities 10–80 cm s−1, and gravel-to-boulder substratum. Fish size affects habitat use, as young of the year are found in the more shallow habitats closer to the stream banks, whereas the older parr use a wider range of habitats. In the absence of brown trout, the Atlantic salmon parr, and especially young of the year, use habitats otherwise inhabited by brown trout. Water velocities are in many cases the principal physical habitat variable determining the distribution of Atlantic salmon in streams, but other variables are also important. Depth is more important in small streams than in large streams.