Fish as Fertilizer
The Impacts of Salmon on Coastal Ecosystems
Department of Biology
In this case study, students examine data from a number of published studies of the effects of Pacific salmon on freshwater and riparian ecosystems. The case focuses on the interesting phenomenon of spawning salmon acting as nutrient conveyor belts, transporting nutrients from the ocean upstream into freshwater spawning areas and, in some cases, even onto land, reversing the more-typical downstream movement of nutrients. As students work at analyzing and interpreting graphical data, they will also increase their understanding of the principles of biogeochemical cycling and gain an appreciation for the interconnectedness of different types of ecosystems. The topic is appropriate for any course covering ecosystem ecology including, for example, general ecology, freshwater or marine ecology, and environmental science.
- Analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from graphical and tabular data.
- Become familiar with the principles and significance of biogeochemical cycling.
- Understand connections between marine, aquatic, and riparian ecosystems.
- Understand the differences between experimental and observational studies.
KeywordsPacific salmon; riparian ecosystem; stream ecosystem; biogeochemical cycles; graphical data; marine-derived nutrients; nitrogen; carbon; stable isotope analysis; fish; northwestern United States
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsInterrupted, Jig-Saw, Journal Article
Subject HeadingsEcology | Environmental Science | Marine Science / Oceanography | Botany / Plant Science |
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