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Food Web Perspectives and Methods for Riverine Fish Conservation

May 17, 2022


Food web analyses offer useful insights into understanding how species interactions, trophic relationships, and energy flow underpin important demographic parameters of fish populations such as survival, growth, and reproduction. However, the vast amount of food web literature and the diversity of approaches can be a deterrent to fisheries practitioners engaged in on-the-ground research, monitoring, or restoration. Incorporation of food web perspectives into contemporary fisheries management and conservation is especially rare in riverine systems, where approaches often focus more on the influence of physical habitat and water temperature on fish populations. In this review, we first discuss the importance of food webs in the context of several common fisheries management issues, including assessing carrying capacity, evaluating the effects of habitat change, examining species introductions or extinctions, considering bioaccumulation of toxins, and predicting the effects of climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on riverine fishes. We then examine several relevant perspectives: basic food web description, metabolic models, trophic basis of production, mass-abundance network approaches, ecological stoichiometry, and mathematical modeling. Finally, we highlight several existing and emerging methodologies including diet and prey surveys, eDNA, stable isotopes, fatty acids, and community and network analysis. Although our emphasis and most examples are focused on salmonids in riverine environments, the concepts are easily generalizable to other freshwater fish taxa and ecosystems.


Sean Naman, Seth White, Ryan Bellmore, Peter McHugh, Matthew Kaylor, Colden Baxter, Robert Danehy, Robert Naiman, and Amy Puls


Naman, S.M., S.M. White, J.R. Bellmore, P.A. McHugh, M.J. Kaylor, C.V. Baxter, R.J. Danehy, R.J. Naiman, and A.L. Puls. 2022. Food web perspectives and methods for riverine fish conservation. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Water 9(4):e1590. Online at



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Media Type

Journal Article