Relationships between salmon abundance and tree-ring δ 15N: Three objective tests

D. C. Drake, Paul J. Sheppard, Robert J. Naiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Quantification of a relationship between salmon escapement in rivers and riparian tree-ring δ 15N could allow reconstruction of prehistorical salmon abundance. Unfortunately, attempts to quantify this link have met with little success. We examined the feasibility of the approach using natural abundance of δ 15N in riparian tree rings formed before and after extirpation of salmon and 15N tracer studies in a river and riparian soils. We concluded that (i) extractable (sap) N must be removed for interpretation of tree-ring δ 15N because it contains up to 78% of the N in wood, is mobile, and differs from structural N in isotopic composition, (ii) no significant change in structural tree-ring δ 15N was associated with salmon extirpation in a natural system, (iii) 500‰ 15NH 4 + added to a stream was detected in riparian tree rings spanning at least 8 years, demonstrating interring movement of N that confounds detection of an annual signal, and (iv) addition of 28 000‰ 15NH 4 + to riparian soils at a rate equaling 7.25 kg salmon·50 m -2 resulted in maximum tree-ring δ 15N of ~100‰-600‰. Thus, the calculated maximum signal possible from salmon was 0.08‰-0.43‰, which is within the range of natural variation. Evidence suggested that neither total nor structural tree-ring δ 15N was useful for reconstructing salmon abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2423-2432
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationships between salmon abundance and tree-ring δ 15N: Three objective tests'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this