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Effects of habitat and internal prey subsidies on juvenile coho salmon growth: implications for stream productive capacity


J. S. Rosenfeld, British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, 2202 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Jordan, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4; e-mail:


Abstract –  To evaluate the effects of habitat, foraging strategy (drift vs. limnetic feeding) and internal prey subsidies (downstream transport of invertebrate drift between habitats) on fish production, we measured the growth of juvenile coho salmon confined to enclosures in flowing (pond inlets and outlets) or standing water (centre of pond) habitats in a constructed river side-channel. The effects of habitat and foraging strategy on fish growth were mediated primarily through habitat effects on prey abundance. Invertebrate drift biomass was nearly an order of magnitude higher at pond inlets relative to outlets. Drift-feeding coho in inlet enclosures grew 50% faster than drift-feeding coho at pond outlets or limnetic feeding coho in the centre of ponds, suggesting that elevated drift at inlets was sufficient to account for higher inlet growth rates. Forty per cent of prey biomass in stomachs was terrestrial in origin. These results indicate that, in addition to dependence on external terrestrial subsidies, streams with alternating slow and fast water (i.e., pool-riffle) sequences are also characterised by internal prey subsidies based on transport of drifting invertebrates from refuge habitats (high velocity riffles) to habitats more suitable for drift-feeding predators (e.g., pools), which may result in higher maximum fish growth in systems where internal subsidises are large. Restoration of small streams to maximise productive capacity for pool-rearing salmonids will require a better understanding of the length and interspersion of habitats that maximises both internal prey subsidies and available rearing habitat for juvenile salmon.