Spatial synchrony in the response of a long range migratory species (Salmo salar) to climate change in the North Atlantic Ocean

Maxime Olmos*, Mark R Payne, Marie Nevoux, Etienne Prévost, Gérald Chaput, Hubert Du Pontavice, Jérôme Guitton, Timothy Sheehan, Katherine Mills, Etienne Rivot

*Corresponding author for this work

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A major challenge in understanding the response of populations to climate change is to separate the effects of local drivers acting independently on specific populations, from the effects of global drivers that impact multiple populations simultaneously and thereby synchronize their dynamics. We investigated the environmental drivers and the demographic mechanisms of the widespread decline in marine survival rates of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) over the last four decades. We developed a hierarchical Bayesian life cycle model to quantify the spatial synchrony in the marine survival of 13 large groups of populations (called stock units, SU) from two continental stock-groupings (CSG) in North America (NA) and Southern Europe (SE) over the period 1971-2014. We found strong coherence in the temporal variation in post-smolt marine survival among the 13 SU of NA and SE. A common North Atlantic trend explains 37% of the temporal variability of the survivals for the 13 SU and declines by a factor 1.8 over the 1971-2014 time series. Synchrony in survival trends is stronger between SU within each CSG. The common trends at the scale of NA and SE capture 60% and 42% of the total variance of temporal variations, respectively. Temporal variations of the post-smolt survival are best explained by the temporal variations of sea surface temperature (SST, negative correlation) and net primary production indices (PP, positive correlation) encountered by salmon in common domains during their marine migration. Specifically, in the Labrador Sea/Grand Banks for NA populations 26% and 24% of variance is captured by SST and PP, respectively and in the Norwegian Sea for SE populations 21% and 12% of variance is captured by SST and PP, respectively. The findings support the hypothesis of a response of salmon populations to large climate induced changes in the North Atlantic simultaneously impacting populations from distant continental habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1319-1337
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Atlantic salmon
  • Bottom‐up
  • Climate change
  • Environmentally driven changes
  • Hierarchical Bayesian model
  • Marine survival
  • Spatial covariation
  • Stage‐based life cycle model


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