Linking oceanic food webs to coastal production and growth rates of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), using models on three scales
Three independent modeling methods—a nutrient-phytoplankton–zooplankton (NPZ) model (NEMURO), a food web model (Ecopath/Ecosim), and a bioenergetics model for pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)—were linked to examine the relationship between seasonal zooplankton dynamics and annual food web productive potential for Pacific salmon feeding and growing in the Alaskan subarctic gyre ecosystem. The linked approach shows the importance of seasonal and ontogenetic prey switching for zooplanktivorous pink salmon, and illustrates the critical role played by lipid-rich forage species, especially the gonatid squid Berryteuthis anonychus, in connecting zooplankton to upper trophic level production in the subarctic North Pacific. The results highlight the need to uncover natural mechanisms responsible for accelerated late winter and early spring growth of salmon, especially with respect to climate change and zooplankton bloom timing. Our results indicate that the best match between modeled and observed high-seas pink salmon growth requires the inclusion of two factors into bioenergetics models: (1) decreasing energetic foraging costs for salmon as zooplankton are concentrated by the spring shallowing of pelagic mixed-layer depth and (2) the ontogenetic switch of salmon diets from zooplankton to squid. Finally, we varied the timing and input levels of coastal salmon production to examine effects of density-dependent coastal processes on ocean feeding; coastal processes that place relatively minor limitations on salmon growth may delay the seasonal timing of ontogenetic diet shifts and thus have a magnified effect on overall salmon growth rates.