As juvenile salmon enter the Delta, they disperse among its complex channel network where they are subject to channel-specific processes that affect their rate of migration, vulnerability to predation, feeding success, growth rates, and ultimately, survival.
In the decades before 2006, tools available to quantify growth, dispersal, and survival of juvenile salmon in this channel network were limited. Fortunately, thanks to technological advances, much has been learned over the past decade about the role of the Delta in the life cycle of juvenile salmon.
One of the most important advances during the past decade has been the widespread adoption of acoustic telemetry techniques. Use of telemetry has shed light on how survival varies among alternative migration routes and the proportion of fish that use each migration route. Chemical and structural analysis have provided insights about when juveniles left their natal river and provided evidence of extended rearing in the brackish or saltwater regions of the Delta.
New advancements in genetics now allow individuals captured by trawls to be assigned to specific runs. Detailed information about movement and survival in the Delta has spurred development of agent-based models of juvenile salmon that are coupled to hydrodynamic models.
Although much has been learned, knowledge gaps remain about how very small juvenile salmon (fry and parr) use the Delta. Understanding how all life stages of juvenile salmon grow, rear, and survive in the Delta is critical for devising management strategies that support a diversity of life history strategies.