Trophic pathways supporting juvenile chinook and coho salmon in the glacial Susitna River, Alaska| Patterns of freshwater, terrestrial, and marine resource use across a seasonally dynamic habitat mosaic
|Institution:||University of Alaska Fairbanks|
|Keywords:||Ecology; Aquatic sciences|
|Full text PDF:||http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=1605432|
In large, seasonally dynamic and spatially complex watersheds, the availability and relative importance of various food resources for stream fishes can be expected to vary substantially. While numerous studies have attempted to uncover the trophic linkages that support stream salmonids, much of these efforts have occurred at small scales that disregard variability of food resources inherent in lotic systems. This study aimed to determine large-scale patterns in the contributions of freshwater, terrestrial, and marine-derived food resources to juvenile Chinook and Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and O. kisutch) in the large, glacially influenced Susitna River, Alaska. I quantified diet patterns both spatially, across different macrohabitat types positioned along a 169-km segment of the river corridor, and temporally, from June to October, using stable isotope and stomach content analyses. To further resolve energy pathways from basal carbon sources to juvenile salmon, I determined the relative roles of terrestrial organic matter and freshwater periphyton food sources to aquatic benthic invertebrate diets. The latter analysis showed that invertebrate consumers were more reliant on freshwater periphyton than on terrestrial organic matter. Bayesian stable isotope mixing models indicated that juvenile salmon in the middle Susitna River were, in turn, largely supported by freshwater invertebrate prey regardless of spatial and temporal context. The relative contribution of marine-derived prey (salmon eggs) to juvenile salmon diets was greatest in the fall within tributary mouth and off-channel macrohabitats during both years of the study. Terrestrial invertebrate prey contributions were generally greatest during mid-summer within all macrohabitat types sampled, however this pattern varied across years. No upstream to downstream diet pattern was apparent from the data. These results underscore the importance of freshwater energy pathways for sustaining juvenile Chinook and Coho salmon in the Susitna River and provide further spatial and temporal context for the importance of pulsed marine and terrestrial prey subsidies. As Pacific salmon stocks continue to decline, management and mitigation efforts should operate on knowledge gained from studies that encompass the large-scale spatial and temporal variability inherent in riverine landscapes.