Population stability in salmon species: effects of population size and female reproductive allocation


Sigurd Einum, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tungasletta 2, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway. Tel: + 47 73 80 15 21 (direct)/+ 47 73 80 14 00 (switchboard), Fax: + 47 73 80 14 01; E-mail: sigurd.einum@ninatrd.ninaniku.no


  • 1Population stability (i.e. level of temporal variation in population abundance) is linked commonly to levels of environmental disturbances. However, populations may also differ in their propensity to dampen or amplify the effects of exogenous forces. Here time-series of population estimates were used to test for such differences among 104 populations of six salmon species.
  • 2At the species level, Atlantic (Salmo salar L.), chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Walbaum) and coho salmon (O. kisutch W) were less variable than sockeye (O. nerka W) and pink salmon (O. gorbuscha W). Chum salmon (O. keta W) was more similar to sockeye and pink salmon. These differences may be related in part to differences in body size, and hence susceptibility to adverse environmental conditions, at the time when they migrate to the sea or lakes.
  • 3At the population level no effect of fecundity on variability was found, in contrast to findings for marine fishes, nor of egg size. Whereas substantial differences in the temporal stability of environmental factors among geographically close populations may over-ride any effects of fecundity or egg size in fresh water, this is less likely in the marine environment where spatial autocorrelations of environmental variability are more pronounced.
  • 4Variation in population sizes was related positively to the duration of time-series when using standard deviations of ln-transformed population estimates, and also when using linearly detrended population variation, suggesting non-linear long-term abundance trends in salmon populations that extend beyond the 7-year period of the shortest time-series.
  • 5When controlling for differences among species, stability increased with increasing population size, and it is hypothesized that this is due to large populations having a more complex spatial and genetic structure than small populations due to wider spatial distribution. The effects of population size on stability, as well as differences in stability among species, suggest that population- and organism-specific characteristics may interact with exogenous forces to shape salmon population dynamics.