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Data from: Thermal exposure of adult Chinook salmon and steelhead: diverse behavioral strategies in a large and warming river system


Keefer, Matthew L. et al. (2019), Data from: Thermal exposure of adult Chinook salmon and steelhead: diverse behavioral strategies in a large and warming river system, Dryad, Dataset,


Rising river temperatures in western North America have increased the energetic costs of migration and the risk of premature mortality in many Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) populations. Predicting and managing risks for these populations requires data on acute and cumulative thermal exposure, the spatio-temporal distribution of adverse conditions, and the potentially mitigating effects of cool-water refuges. In this study, we paired radiotelemetry with archival temperature loggers to construct continuous, spatially-explicit thermal histories for 212 adult Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) and 200 adult steelhead (O. mykiss). The fish amassed ~500,000 temperature records (30-min intervals) while migrating through 470 kilometers of the Columbia and Snake rivers en route to spawning sites in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Spring- and most summer-run Chinook salmon migrated before river temperatures reached annual highs; their body temperatures closely matched ambient temperatures and most had thermal maxima in the lower Snake River. In contrast, many individual fall-run Chinook salmon and most steelhead had maxima near thermal tolerance limits (20-22 °C) in the lower Columbia River. High temperatures elicited extensive use of thermal refuges near tributary confluences, where body temperatures were ~2-10 °C cooler than the adjacent migration corridor. Many steelhead used refuges for weeks or more whereas salmon use was typically hours to days, reflecting differences in spawn timing. Almost no refuge use was detected in a ~260-km reach where a thermal migration barrier may more frequently develop in future warmer years. Within population, cumulative thermal exposure was strongly positively correlated (0.88 ≤ r ≤ 0.98) with migration duration and inconsistently associated (-0.28 ≤ r ≤ 0.09) with migration date. All four populations have likely experienced historically high mean and maximum temperatures in recent years. Expected responses include population-specific shifts in migration phenology, increased reliance on patchily-distributed thermal refuges, and natural selection favoring temperature-tolerant phenotypes.

Usage Notes


Columbia River basin