Process-based modelling of decadal trends in growth, survival, and smolting of wild salmon (Salmo salar) parr in a Scottish upland stream

William S.C. Gurney, Philip J. Bacon, Graham Tyldesley, Alan F. Youngson

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This paper reports a new model of the freshwater stages of an anadromous fish, at the core of which is a stochastic description of the size-at-age dynamics of a growing cohort. Emigration is assumed to require the individual to exceed a threshold size at a critical time of year, thus making the distributions of survival to, and age at, smolting emergent properties of the model. The model is applied to a long-term data set on juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Girnock Burn, Scotland, to understand the role played by decadal temperature trends in generating changes in smolt production and age distribution. We conclude that changes in age at smolting are compatible with causation by shifts in the temperature regime. However, the large attenuation between a dramatic fall in spawner numbers and a relatively minor diminution in total smolt production does not result from the physiological effects of temperature but is rather a result of strongly density-dependent mortality between the deposition of ova and the appearance of catchable fry the following summer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2606-2622
Number of pages16
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2008


  • modelling
  • decadal trends
  • salmon
  • smolt production
  • age distribution

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