An analytical method for assessing the spatial and temporal variation of juvenile Atlantic salmon habitat in an upland Scottish river

Luca Fabris, Gianluca Lazzaro, Willem Bastiaan Buddendorf, Iain Malcolm, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Gianluca Botter, Christopher Soulsby

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Wild Atlantic salmon populations in Scottish rivers constitute an important economic and recreational resource, as well as being a key component of biodiversity. Salmon have specific habitat requirements at different life stages and their distribution is therefore strongly influenced by a complex suite of biological and physical controls. Stream hydrodynamics have a strong influence on habitat quality and affect the distribution and density of juvenile salmon. As stream hydrodynamics directly relate to stream flow variability and channel morphology, the effects of hydroclimatic drivers on the spatial and temporal variability of habitat suitability can be assessed. Critical Displacement Velocity (CDV), which describes the velocity at which fish can no longer hold station, is one potential approach for characterising habitat suitability. CDV is obtained using an empirical formula that depends on fish size and stream temperature. By characterising the proportion of a reach below CDV it is possible to assess the suitable area. We demonstrate that a generic analytical approach based on field survey and hydraulic modelling can provide insights on the interactions between flow regime and average suitable area (SA) for juvenile salmon that could be extended to other aquatic species. Analytical functions are used to model the pdf of stream flow p(q) and the relationship between flow and suitable area SA(q). Theoretically these functions can assume any form. Here we used a gamma distribution to model p(q) and a gamma function to model SA(q). Integrating the product of these functions we obtain an analytical expression of SA. Since parameters of p(q) can be estimated from meteorological and flow measurements, they can be used directly to predict the effect of flow regime on SA. We show the utility of the approach with reference to 6 electrofishing sites in a single river system where long term (50 years) data on spatially distributed juvenile salmon densities are available.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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