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

Bowerman, T., Neilson, B. and P. Budy. 2014. Effects of fine sediment, hyporheic flow, and spawning site selection on survival and development of bull trout embryos. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 71: 1–13. USGS FSP: IP-049185.


Successful spawning is imperative for the persistence of salmonid populations, but relatively little research has been conducted to evaluate factors affecting early life-stage survival for bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), a threatened char. We conducted a field experiment to assess the relationship between site-specific environmental factors and bull trout embryo survival and fry emergence timing. Survival from egg to hatch was negatively related to percent fine sediment (<1 mm) in the redd and positively related to the strength of downwelling at spawning sites. Survival of eggs to fry emergence was also negatively related to fine sediment, and the best statistical models included additional variables that described the rate of downwelling and intragravel flow within the incubation environment. Fry emerged at an earlier stage in development from redds with high percentages of fine sediment. Increased hydraulic conductivity via redd construction and selection of spawning sites with strong downwelling appear to enhance hyporheic flow rates and bull trout egg survival, but early life-stage success may ultimately be limited by intrusion of fine sediment into the incubation environment.