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Relating river discharge and water temperature to the recruitment of age‐0 White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus Richardson, 1836) in the Columbia River using over‐dispersed catch data

Counihan, T. D., Chapman, C. G.
Journal of applied ichthyology 2018 v.34 no.2 pp. 279-289
Acipenser transmontanus, correlation, egg incubation, environmental factors, gillnets, larvae, models, postlarvae, rivers, spawning, stream flow, sturgeon, surveys, water temperature, Columbia River
The goals were to (i) determine if river discharge and water temperature during various early life history stages were predictors of age‐0 White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, recruitment, and (ii) provide an example of how over‐dispersed catch data, including data with many zero observations, can be used to better understand the effects of regulated rivers on the productivity of depressed sturgeon populations. An information theoretic approach was used to develop and select negative binomial and zero‐inflated negative binomial models that model the relation of age‐0 White Sturgeon survey data from three contiguous Columbia River reservoirs to river discharge and water temperature during spawning, egg incubation, larval, and post‐larval phases. Age‐0 White Sturgeon were collected with small mesh gill nets in The Dalles and John Day reservoirs from 1997 to 2014 and a bottom trawl in Bonneville Reservoir from 1989 to 2006. Results suggest that seasonal river discharge was positively correlated with age‐0 recruitment; notably that discharge, 16 June–31 July was positively correlated to age‐0 recruitment in all three reservoirs. The best approximating models for two of the three reservoirs also suggest that seasonal water temperature may be a determinant of age‐0 recruitment. Our research demonstrates how over‐dispersed catch data can be used to better understand the effects of environmental conditions on sturgeon populations caused by the construction and operation of dams.