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Rinaldo A;de Eyto E;Reed T;Gjelland KŲ;McGinnity P;
Journal of Fish Biology
Global warming is projected to lead to increased freshwater growth potential and changes in pace-of-life in Atlantic salmon Salmo salar.
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Global warming has been implicated in widespread demographic changes in Atlantic salmon Salmo salar populations, but projections of life history responses to future climate change are lacking. Here, we first exploit multiple decades of climate and biological data from the Burrishoole catchment in the west of Ireland to model statistical relationships between atmospheric variables, water temperature and freshwater growth of juvenile Atlantic salmon. We then use this information to project potential changes in juvenile growth and life history scheduling under three shared socioeconomic pathway and representative concentration pathway scenarios from 1961-2100, based on an ensemble of five climate models. Historical water temperatures were well predicted with a recurrent neural network, using observation-based atmospheric forcing data. Length-at-age was in turn also well predicted by cumulative growing degree days calculated from these water temperatures. Most juveniles in the Burrishoole population migrated to sea as two-year-old smolts, but our future projections indicate that the system should start producing a greater proportion of one-year-old smolts, as increasingly more juveniles cross a size-based threshold in their first summer for smoltification the following spring. Those failing to cross the size-based threshold will instead smolt as two-year-olds, but at a larger length relative to two-year-old smolts observed currently, owing to greater overall freshwater growth opportunity. These changes in age- and size-at-seaward migration could have cascading effects on age- and size-at-maturity and reproductive output. Consequently, the seemingly small changes that our results demonstrate have the potential to cause significant shifts in population dynamics over the full life cycle. This workflow is highly applicable across the range of the Atlantic salmon, as well as to other anadromous species, as it uses openly accessible climate data and a length-at-age model with minimal input requirements, fostering improved general understanding of phenotypic and demographic responses to climate change and management implications. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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