Food webs play big role in successful restorations

By on March 25, 2013
Dolly Varden fry (Credit: Beeblebrox, via Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Washington highlights the importance of conserving food webs when restoring stream ecosystems. Researchers looked at one Alaskan trout’s sparse eating tendencies in the study.

Dolly Varden trout in Alaska’s Chignik Lake Watershed were found to stock up on eggs and flesh of salmon carcasses left from annual spawning that occurs each August. The trout eat so much during this period that their stomachs and intestines increase up to four times normal size. When salmon spawning ceases, Dolly Varden live off the built-up fat reserves for nearly a year because they have few other food sources.

Eating habits are important to consider when working to restore stream ecosystems, researchers say. Many such restoration projects cost millions, but their effectiveness can be limited by not shoring up food webs.

The study was published in the Journal of Animal Ecology and supported with funds from the National Science Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Alaska salmon processors and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.

Image: Dolly Varden fry (Credit: Beeblebrox, via Wikimedia Commons)

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