Pacific salmon are a keystone resource in Alaska, generating annual revenues of well over ~US$500 million/yr. Due to their anadromous life history, adult spawners distribute amongst thousands of streams, posing a huge management challenge. Currently, spawners are enumerated at just a few streams because of reliance on human counters and, rarely, sonar. The ability to detect organisms by shed tissue (environmental DNA, eDNA) promises a more efficient counting method. However, although eDNA correlates generally with local fish abundances, we do not know if eDNA can accurately enumerate salmon. Here we show that daily, and near‐daily, flow‐corrected eDNA rate closely tracks daily numbers of returning sockeye and coho spawners and outmigrating sockeye smolts. eDNA thus promises accurate and efficient enumeration, but to deliver the most robust numbers will need higher‐resolution stream‐flow data, at‐least‐daily sampling, and a focus on species with simple life histories, since shedding rate varies amongst jacks, juveniles, and adults.
|Journal||Molecular Ecology Resources|
|Early online date||28 Dec 2018|
|Publication status||Published - May 2019|