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Can nutrient additions facilitate recovery of Pacific salmon?

June 18, 2020

Multiple restoration actions have been implemented in response to declining salmon populations. Among these is the addition of salmon carcasses or artificial nutrients to mimic marine-derived nutrients historically provided by large spawning runs of salmon. A key assumption in this approach is that increased nutrients will catalyze salmon population growth. Although effects on aquatic ecosystems have been observed during treatments, it is unclear whether permanent population increases for salmon will occur. To test this assumption and address associated uncertainties, we linked a food web model with a salmon life cycle model to examine whether carcass additions in a river reach would improve conditions for salmon in the long term. Model results confirmed immediate increases in the biomass of periphyton, macroinvertebrates, and fish during carcass additions. In turn, juvenile salmon grew larger and experienced improved freshwater and smolt survival, which translated to a greater number of adults returning to spawn. However, once additions ceased, salmon abundance returned to pretreatment levels, which, based on our model, is owing to a combination of instream and out-of-basin factors. Overall, results of this work suggest that benefits during carcass and nutrient additions may not translate into persistent productivity of salmon unless additions are sustained indefinitely or other limiting factors are addressed.

Publication Year 2020
Title Can nutrient additions facilitate recovery of Pacific salmon?
DOI 10.1139/cjfas-2019-0438
Authors Joseph R. Benjamin, James R Bellmore, Emily Whitney, Jason B. Dunham
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Index ID 70212520
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center