Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alaska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alaska Project

The role of environmental processes in structuring the distribution of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitats across a large Alaska river basin

June 2013 - June 2018


Participating Agencies

  • State of Alaska/Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Chinook salmon are an important commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishery resource in Alaska. Substantial declines in escapement from many Alaskan watersheds in recent years have resulted in closures of Chinook salmon fishing in more imperiled drainages, such as the Chena River, Alaska. Physical processes such as hydrology and stream temperature are important mechanisms that influence fish populations, yet their dynamics are poorly understood in boreal stream ecosystems. This project was a collaboration between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We developed spatially continuous metrics that describe historic, current, and future physical habitat, hydrologic and temperature regimes within the Chena River basin, a predictive model of stream thermal regimes used to investigate riverscape-scale patterns in juvenile salmon bioenergetic performance, and an assessment of environmental and density-dependent factors influencing juvenile and adult Chinook salmon population dynamics and distributions. Our results will assist with conservation and management planning through identification and prioritization of critical spawning and rearing areas, and ultimately help identify mechanisms limiting Chinook salmon productivity within the Chena watershed.

Research Publications Publication Date
Huntsman, B.M., and J.A. Falke. 2019. Main stem and off-channel habitat use by juvenile Chinook salmon in a sub-Arctic riverscape. Freshwater Biology. 64: 433-446. DOI: 10.1111/fwb.13232. February 2019
Huntsman, B.M., Falke, J.A., Savereide, J.W., and K.E. Bennett. 2017. The role of density-dependent and –independent processes in spawning habitat selection by salmon in an Arctic boreal stream network. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177467. journal.pone.0177467 May 2017
Falke, J.A., Huntsman, B.M., and E.R. Schoen. 2019. Climatic variation drives growth potential of juvenile Chinook Salmon along a subarctic boreal riverscape. Pages 57-82 in R.M. Hughes and D. Infante, editors. Advances in understanding landscape influences on freshwater habitats and biological assemblages. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 90, Bethesda, Maryland. September 2019