Physical characteristics of riverine habitats, such as large wood abundance, pool geometry and abundance, riparian vegetation cover, and surface flow conditions, have traditionally been thought to constrain fish production in these ecosystems. Conversely, the role of food resources (quantity and quality) in controlling fish production has received far less attention and consideration, though they can also be key productivity drivers. Traditional freshwater food web illustrations have typically conveyed the notion that most fish food is produced within the local aquatic habitat itself, but the concepts and model we synthesize in this article show that most fish food comes from external or very distant sources-including subsidies from marine systems borne from adult returns of anadromous fishes, from fishless headwater tributaries that transport prey to downstream fish, and from adjacent streamside vegetation and associated habitats. The model we propose further illustrates how key trophic pathways and food sources vary through time and space throughout watersheds. Insights into how food supplies affect fishes can help guide how we view riverine ecosystems, their structure and function, their interactions with marine and terrestrial systems, and how we manage natural resources, including fish, riparian habitats, and forests.
Additional Publication Details
Linking ecosystems, food webs, and fish production: Subsidies in salmonid watersheds