Spawning Salmon Density Influences Fruit Production of Salmonberry (Rubus Spectabilis)

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (Masters)
Final version published as: 

Siemens, L. D., Dennert, A. M., Obrist, D. S., & Reynolds, J. D. (2020). Spawning salmon density influences fruit production of salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis). Ecosphere, 11(11), e03282.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.3282
British Columbia
Chum salmon
Fruit production
Marine‐derived nutrients
Pacific salmon
Pink salmon
Plant traits
Riparian vegetation
Rubus spectabilis
Spawning salmon density

Annual spawning migrations by Pacific salmon can provide substantial subsidies to nutrient‐limited freshwater and riparian ecosystems, which can affect the abundance, diversity, and physical characteristics of plant and animal species in these habitats. Here, we provide the first investigation of how salmon subsidies affect reproductive output in plants, focusing on a common riparian shrub, salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis). We studied 14 streams with a range of spawning salmon densities on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. We determined the effects of chum (Oncorhynchus keta), pink (O. gorbuscha), and total salmon spawning density on the number of fruits per shrub, number of seeds per fruit, fruit weight, and estimated sugar content (° Brix) of salmonberry fruits. We found that the number of fruits per salmonberry shrub increased with increasing salmon density. However, we found no effect of salmon density on the number of seeds per fruit, fruit weight, or sugar content. The effect of salmon density was species‐dependent; the number of fruits per shrub increased with chum salmon density but was not affected by pink salmon density. This could be because chum salmon occur at higher densities and are transferred from water to land at higher rates than pink salmon in our study area. Higher salmonberry fruit production could lead to a larger input of salmonberry fruits to coastal food webs. These results demonstrate how salmon can cross ecological boundaries and influence reproductive output of terrestrial species.

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