Salmon carcass addition to streams is expected to increase stream productivity at multiple trophic levels. This study examined stream nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon), epilithic biofilm (ash-free dry mass and chlorophyll a), leaf-litter decomposition, and macroinvertebrate (density and biomass) responses to carcass addition in three headwater streams of southwestern Washington State, USA. We used stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) to trace incorporation of salmon-derived (SD) nutrients into stream food webs. SD nutrients were assimilated by biofilm, benthic insects (Perlidae and Limnephilidae spp.), and age-1 steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri). SD nutrients peaked -2 weeks after carcass addition for insects and fish feeding on carcasses, but indirect uptake of SD nutrients by biofilm and insects was delayed by ~2 months. A strong stable isotope signal did not always correspond with measurable biological change. At reaches 10-50 m downstream from carcasses, ammonium concentration, leaf-litter decomposition, and benthic insect density all increased relative to upstream control sites. The strongest responses and greatest SD-nutrient uptake were observed 10 m from decomposing carcasses, with effects generally decreasing to undetectable levels 250 m downstream. Carcass addition to headwater streams can have a transient effect on primary and secondary trophic levels, but responses may be limited to specific taxa near carcass locations.
Claeson, Shannon M.; Li, Judith L.; Compton, Jana E.; Bisson, Peter A. 2006. Response of nutrients, biofilm, and benthic insects to salmon carcass addition. Canadian Journal of Fish and Aquatic Science. 63: 1230-1241