The Role of River Herring in Coastal Ecosystems

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 1:00 PM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
David Post , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Alewife and blueback herring, collectively referred to as river herring, are ecologically important anadromous fish in coastal watersheds across Eastern North America. River herring structure the food webs of the freshwater ecosystems in which they spawn, are important prey for freshwater and marine predators, and have the potential to contribute considerable quantities of marine-derived nutrients to coastal watersheds. Declining returns have had a large impact on nutrient loading by river herring. Here I present estimates of both contemporary and historical nutrient loading by river herring and place those estimates into the context of changing land use and nutrient loading by humans. I then compare the role of river herring to Pacific salmon. Despite differences in body size and life history between river herring and Pacific salmon, and considerable differences between coastal watersheds of Eastern and Western North America, recent studies suggest that river herring are as important to the coastal ecosystems of Eastern North America as Pacific salmon are to the coastal ecosystems of Western North America.