Influences of hydrological regimes on the pre-spawning entry of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) into an upland river

D. Tetzlaff, C. Gibbins, P. J. Bacon, A. F. Youngson, C. Soulsby

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The Girnock Burn is an Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) spawning tributary of the river Dee, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The dates, sexes and numbers of adult salmon entering the stream in the three months prior to spawning were determined between 1969 and 2005 using a permanent fish-trap. During this time, the number of fish returning to spawn varied markedly. Here we analyze the whole of this unique long term data set in order to characterize and classify the hydrologic regimes of the pre-spawning migration period and assess the extent to which these regimes help explain the timing and patterns of arrival of adult salmon into the stream. A range of flow parameters was calculated for the arrival period (September-November) for each of the 37 years. These parameters were used to ordinate and classify years according to their flow regimes. The analysis yielded six distinct groups or 'flow regime types' which separated principally in relation to flow magnitude and frequency parameters. The number of fish entering the burn on a given day was not significantly correlated to discharge on that day. However, patterns of arrival of fish differed markedly between years with different regime types, with the number of fish arriving on a given day related to patterns of discharge over the preceding part of the arrival period. Overall inter-annual variability in entry corresponded to the defined regime types. In wetter years, fish entry to the stream usually starts relatively early and continues throughout the pre-spawning period. In contrast, dry years may result in fish entry being delayed; this may result in lower numbers of spawning females entering the stream and sub-optimal utilization of juvenile habitat in the following spring. Copyright (C) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-542
Number of pages14
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number5
Early online date28 May 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Atlantic salmon
  • pre-spawning river entry
  • flow regime types
  • discharge variability
  • hydrological influences
  • water-resource management
  • return migration
  • regulated river
  • surface-water
  • stream
  • temperature
  • discharge
  • catchment
  • juvenile
  • growth


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