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The effects of salmon carcasses on soil nitrogen pools in a riparian forest of southeastern Alaska

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Long-term studies in Alaska have demonstrated that bears may capture and carry to the riparian forest a large number of salmon that return to spawn in small freshwater streams. Most of the carcasses are partially consumed, resulting in a large amount of salmon nutrients in the form of biomass deposited on the forest floor. Using an experimental approach, we examined how these carcasses may influence the spatial and temporal dynamics of soil C and N in a riparian forest in southeastern Alaska. At their peak, ammonium (NH4+-N) concentrations in soil 10cm from carcasses were as much as several orders of magnitude greater than soils in adjacent control plots without carcasses and remained elevated until the onset of winter. Nitrate (NO3-N) and 15N concentrations also increased coincident with maximum NH4+-N concentrations. However, soil N concentrations were only moderately elevated 20cm from carcasses and closely resembled background concentrations at 30cm. These results suggest that salmon carcasses, via bear foraging activities, can dramatically influence soil N pools, although the impacts appear to be highly localized and largely dependent on the spatial distribution of carcasses in the riparian forest.

Des études à long terme réalisées en Alaska ont démontré que les ours peuvent capturer et transporter vers la forêt riveraine un grand nombre de saumons qui reviennent frayer dans les petits ruisseaux d’eau douce. La plupart des carcasses sont partiellement consommées entraînant le dépôt dune grande quantité de nutriments sous forme de biomasse sur le parterre forestier. À l’aide d’une approche expérimentale, nous avons examiné comment ces carcasses peuvent influencer la dynamique spatiale et temporelle du C et de N du sol dans une forêt riveraine du sud-est de l’Alaska. À son maximum, la concentration d’ammonium (NH4+-N) dans le sol à 10 cm des carcasses était jusqu’à plusieurs ordres de grandeur plus élevée que dans le sol de parcelles témoins adjacentes sans carcasses et est demeurée élevée jusqu’au début de l’hiver. Les concentrations de nitrate (NO3-N) et de 15N ont aussi augmenté en même temps que la concentration maximum de NH4+-N. Cependant, la concentration de N dans le sol était seulement modérément élevée à 20 cm des carcasses et ressemblait étroitement à la concentration normale à 30 cm. Ces résultats indiquent que les carcasses de saumon, via les activités des ours pour trouver de la nourriture, peuvent avoir une influence énorme sur les pools d’azote bien que les impacts semblent très localisés et largement dépendants de la distribution spatiale des carcasses dans la forêt riveraine.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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