The migratory life history and physiology of arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus, navigating change in the Canadian North

  • Author / Creator
    Gilbert, Matthew JH
  • Global climate change (GCC) is most pronounced at higher latitudes; to what degree northern migratory fish species can tolerate this change remains largely unknown. Imminent effects of GCC on arctic rivers include warmer water temperatures and changes in the timing, frequency and magnitude of high and low flow events, all of which could reduce fish passage. Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), are a salmonid species of great ecological, cultural, and subsistence value, and are among the fish species likely to be impacted by these changes. Based on this, my research aim was to identify life-history and physiological characteristics that would be likely to shape the ability of arctic char to cope with GCC. To this end, in chapter 2, I characterized alternative migratory life-history strategies that facilitate the existence of a char population in a harsh environment. The most significant of these strategies included the earliest documented return migration timing in the Canadian Arctic and a very low annual fidelity (near 0%) which together, reduced fishes exposure to even harsher conditions than those they already faced. In the physiological components of my research I took a comparative approach and conducted experiments on rainbow trout, a well-studied temperate reference species, in addition to arctic char. In chapter 3, I used laboratory simulations to identify potential physiological constraints on the migration of arctic char through current and future thermal regimes that include large diurnal temperature fluctuations. In chapter 4, I revealed transcriptional and biochemical responses of arctic char to these thermal regimes that were indicative of only partially successful compensatory responses in addition to severe heat-stress and disruption of biochemical processes. In chapter 4, I also verified the utility of a suite of transcripts as biomarkers for thermal stress in wild arctic char. Together my research suggests that arctic char possess life history and physiological traits that may make them more tolerant, and adaptable to GCC than previously thought but may still place them at a competitive disadvantage relative to more temperate species whose ranges are expanding northward.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Physiology, Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Vinebrooke, Rolf (Biological Sciences)
    • Tonn, Bill (Biological Sciences)