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Millennial-scale decline in coho salmon abundance since the middle Holocene in a coastal Oregon watershed, USA

  • Daniel G. Gavin (a1), Jennifer E. Kusler (a1) (a2) and Bruce P. Finney (a3)
Abstract

The population size of anadromous salmon in the Pacific Northwest is strongly influenced by decadal variation in watershed and oceanographic conditions and therefore should also be influenced by larger magnitude millennial-scale variations in these conditions. We studied δ15N of bulk organic matter in lake sediment from Woahink Lake, Oregon, as a proxy of marine-derived nutrients (MDN) from spawning coho salmon. We compared this site to a control lake with a natural barrier to salmon migration. From 7.5 to 5.4 ka, a dune was emplaced, breached, and emplaced again, forming Woahink Lake in a former estuary. δ15N decreased steadily since 5.4 ka at Woahink but not at the control lake. δ15N reached a minimum just prior to anthropogenic nutrient loading, which caused an increase in δ15N, thus precluding a comparison with the historical decline in salmon abundance. A mixing model of lake-water nitrate, developed to explore alternate scenarios for the observed range of δ15N, could not explain these results without invoking MDN input from at least several hundred salmon annually. Our results show a previously unreported pattern of a millennial-scale decline in salmon that has plausible linkages to parallel changes in ocean circulation and productivity.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author at: Department of Geography, 1251 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. E-mail address: dgavin@uoregon.edu (D.G. Gavin).
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