, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 984-998
Date: 05 Aug 2009

The Role of Marsh-Derived Macrodetritus to the Food Webs of Juvenile Chinook Salmon in a Large Altered Estuary

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The goal of this study was to determine the food web pathways supporting juvenile Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) salmon in the Columbia River estuary through multiple stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N, δ34S). Using this method, we distinguished the role of various organic matter sources in Chinook food webs and interpreted the dynamics of their use both spatially and temporally within the estuary. Our results indicate that subyearling Chinook are associated with fluvial, anthropogenic, estuarine, and marine organic matter sources, with hatchery food and vascular plant detritus being the most dominant sources in juvenile Chinook food webs. Although freshwater phytoplankton is involved in many food web pathways to subyearling Chinook, increased phytoplankton production from the impounded river has not replaced the loss of autochthonous marsh production to fish. Our results indicate that large-scale ecosystem alteration may have decreased the availability and quality of food webs in the estuary and potentially diminished the ability of the Columbia to support Chinook salmon.