Impacts of Salmon on Riparian Plant Diversity

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Science  25 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6024, pp. 1609-1612
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201079

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The study of natural gradients in nutrient subsidies between ecosystems allows for predictions of how changes in one system can affect biodiversity in another. We performed a large-scale empirical test of the role of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in structuring riparian plant communities. A comparison of 50 watersheds in the remote Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia’s central coast in Canada shows that salmon influence nutrient loading to plants, shifting plant communities toward nutrient-rich species, which in turn decreases plant diversity. These effects are mediated by interactions between salmon density and the physical characteristics of watersheds. Predicting how salmon affect terrestrial ecosystems is central to conservation plans that aim to better integrate ecosystem values into resource management.

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