Atlantic Salmon Research: An Ecosystem Approach
Salmon habitats are complex and support multiple species. We work across these systems and fish communities to better inform conservation efforts.
Atlantic salmon are part of a community of sea-run fish native to northeastern U.S. rivers. For populations to return to a sustainable level, managers believe the whole ecosystem must recover. They are focusing efforts on the habitat needs not only for salmon but for multiple sea-run species. Successful Atlantic salmon restoration may also have a significant ripple effect felt across the entire ecosystem they inhabit.
We are developing a better understanding of how Atlantic salmon and the other diadromous fish connect ecosystems and why we need an ecosystem approach to recovery. Our work demonstrates a broader approach to Atlantic salmon recovery, incorporating the varied and complex ecosystem connections that Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish can have. We also show the need for an ecosystem perspective for the science and management supporting the recovery program.
Studying Multiple Ecosystems
Wild U.S. Atlantic salmon are a part of many different ecosystems—from small brooks to the Labrador Sea—and are both predators and prey. They eat aquatic insects and small fish while in freshwater, and invertebrates and fish as they migrate throughout the North Atlantic. Kingfishers, mink, and non-native smallmouth bass prey on salmon in freshwater. In estuaries and oceans, predators include cormorants, striped bass, seabirds, sharks, seals, and other marine mammals.
Atlantic salmon may spend most of their freshwater life in a relatively small river reach (less than a mile). In their migratory phase they move through rivers, estuaries, and ocean habitats in a 4,800-mile round trip journey from Maine to coastal Greenland.
River Herring Migration and Atlantic Salmon
We are conducting ongoing studies on the timing of spawning river herring upstream migration during the downstream migration of juvenile Atlantic salmon. It will lead to better understanding predation impacts on both species in areas where they overlap in time and location.
Nutrient Transfer in Freshwater
We study the nutrients imported into freshwater environments from fish returning from feeding at sea. Scientists are researching how these nutrients can support juvenile Atlantic salmon growth and survival. These nutrients may also support other river species, such as brook trout.