Relationship between channel morphology and foraging habitat for stream salmonids: Effects of body size

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Piotr Cienciala, University of British Columbia, Department of Geography, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Marwan A Hassan, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Channel morphology and dynamics strongly influence fish populations in running waters by defining habitat template for movement, spawning, incubation, and foraging. In this research we adopted a modeling approach to investigate how body size controls the relationship between salmonid fish and their foraging habitat in streams. Body size is a fundamental ecological parameter which affects resource acquisition, locomotory costs, metabolic rates, and competitive abilities. We focus on two specific questions. First, we examined how distinct types of channel morphology and associated flow fields shape specific growth potential for different body size classes of trout. Second, we modeled these fish-habitat relationships in a size-structured population in the presence of intraspecific competition. In the latter scenario, fish may not be able to occupy energetically optimal foraging habitat and the predicted specific growth potential may differ from the intrinsic habitat quality. To address the research questions, we linked a 2D hydrodynamic model with a bioenergetic foraging model for drift-feeding trout. Net energy intake, simulated for four study reaches with different channel morphology, was converted into maps of specific growth rate potential. We extended this model by including a component that enabled us to estimate territory size for fish of a given body size and account for the effects of competition on spatial distribution of fish. The predictions that emerge from our simulations highlight that fish body size is an important factor that determines the relationship between channel morphology and the quality of foraging habitat. The results also indicate that distinct types of channel morphology may give rise to different energetic conditions for different body size classes of drift-feeding salmonids.