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27 December 2011 Allochthonous inputs from grass-dominated wetlands support juvenile salmonids in headwater streams: evidence from stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen
Matthew P Dekar, Ryan S King, Jeffrey A Back
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Abstract

We used dual-isotope mixing models (δ13C/δ15N and δ2H/δ15N) in a Bayesian framework to partition allochthonous and autochthonous energy sources for salmonids in 2 headwater streams in the Kenai Lowlands, Alaska (USA). Our 1st objective was to estimate the production base for juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma). We hypothesized that consumers would be reliant on both autochthonous (filamentous algae and periphyton) and allochthonous sources, but that autochthonous sources would dominate because of the open canopy and lower-quality litter inputs provided by the riparian wetland vegetation, primarily bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis). Our 2nd objective was to evaluate the utility of stable H isotopes for tracing energy pathways in a northern-latitude ecosystem. We hypothesized that δ2H-based models would provide more precise estimates of source partitioning than δ13C-based models because of greater source separation. Allochthonous source contributions consistently exceeded autochthonous sources for all fish species and size classes at both study sites. However, diet shifted during ontogeny, and larger Dolly Varden relied more on autochthonous sources than did smaller individuals of both species. Last, we found good correspondence and similar levels of precision between the δ13C- and δ2H-based models despite greater source separation by δ2H. Our results highlight the importance of allochthonous sources in headwater streams, and we suggest that litter inputs from grasses may be an under-appreciated subsidy to salmon production. Stable H isotopes can be an effective foodweb tracer in northern-latitude streams, but source partitioning results were not sufficiently different from stable C isotope models for us to recommend unequivocally using them to replace or enhance δ13C in similar studies.

The Society for Freshwater Science
Matthew P Dekar, Ryan S King, and Jeffrey A Back "Allochthonous inputs from grass-dominated wetlands support juvenile salmonids in headwater streams: evidence from stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen," Freshwater Science 31(1), 121-132, (27 December 2011). https://doi.org/10.1899/11-016.1
Received: 8 February 2011; Accepted: 1 October 2011; Published: 27 December 2011
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