The effects of flow on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) redd distribution in a UK chalk stream between 1980 and 2015
Atlantic salmon are an ecologically and economically important migratory fish in the UK, whose stocks have been declining over the past 30 years. Future climate and water use changes have the potential to alter the reproductive behaviour and distribution of salmon within a river, by restricting times and ability to access suitable spawning areas. As the survival of emergent salmon juveniles is density dependent, understanding how climate-driven changes in flow affect the location of salmon redds is important for future conservation efforts. This study examined how flow conditions affect the distribution of redds within a UK chalk stream, the river Frome in Dorset. Sixteen years of redd distribution and flow data between 1980 and 2015 were analysed using linear mixed-effects modelling. Generally, highest redd densities occurred within middle reaches of the main river. Mean flow during the river Frome critical migration period (October–December) did not affect the density of redds directly but affected the relationship between redd density and distance from tidal limit: redd densities were spread more uniformly throughout the river under high flow conditions, whereas redds were more aggregated in the middle river reaches under low flow conditions. Together, these findings suggest that access to upstream spawning grounds was limited under low flow conditions, which could have negative repercussions on juvenile survival. This study has revealed the distribution of redds along the river Frome for the first time and provided a basis for further study into the effects of redd distribution on subsequent juvenile life stages.