Aquat Conserv. 2022 Jun;32(6):1073-1091. doi: 10.1002/aqc.3811. Epub 2022 Mar 29.
Freshwater catchments can experience nutrient deficits that result in reduced primary and secondary productivity. The most commonly limiting nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorus, either separately or together. This review considers the impact of increasing nutrient limitation in temperate basin stream and river systems, focusing on upland areas that currently or previously supported wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations.Anthropogenic changes to land use and increases in river barriers have altered upland nutrient dynamics, with particular impacts on salmon and other migratory fish species which may be net importers of nutrients to upland streams. Declining salmon populations may further reduce nutrient sources, reducing ecosystem and fisheries productivity below desired levels.Experimental manipulations of nutrient levels have examined the impacts of this cultural oligotrophication. There is evidence that growth and biomass of juvenile salmon can be increased via appropriate additions of nutrients, offering potential as a conservation tool. However, further research is required to understand the long-term effects of these additions on salmon populations and stream ecosystems, and to assess the vulnerability of downstream habitats to eutrophication as a result.Although purposeful nutrient addition with the aim of enhancing and conserving salmonid populations may be justified in some cases, it should be undertaken in an adaptive management framework. In addition, nutrient addition should be linked to nutrient retention and processing, and integrated into large-scale habitat restoration and recovery efforts.Both the scientific and the management community should recognize that the ecological costs and benefits associated with adding nutrients to salmon streams may change in a non-stationary world.