Alder (Alnus spp.) and Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) provide key nutrient subsidies to freshwater systems. In southwestern Alaska, alder-derived nutrients (ADNs) are increasing as alder cover expands in response to climate warming, while climate change and habitat degradation are reducing marine-derived nutrients (MDNs) in salmon-spawning habitats. To assess the relative influences of ADN and MDN on aquatic microbial community structure and function, we analyzed lake chemistry, bacterial community structure, and microbial metabolism in 13 lakes with varying alder cover and salmon abundance in southwestern Alaska. We conducted bioassays to determine microbial nutrient limitation and physical factors modulating microbial response to nutrient inputs (+N, +P and +NP treatments). Seasonal shifts in bacterial community structure (F = 7.47, P < 0.01) coincided with changes in lake nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations (r2 = 0.19 and 0.16, both P < 0.05), and putrescine degradation (r2 = 0.13, P = 0.06), suggesting the influx and microbial use of MDN. Higher microbial metabolism occurred in summer than spring, coinciding with salmon runs. Increased microbial metabolism occurred in lakes where more salmon spawned. Microbial metabolic activity was unrelated to alder cover, likely because ADN provides less resource diversity than MDN. When nutrients were added to spring samples, there was greater substrate use by microbial communities from lakes with elevated Chl a concentrations and large relative catchment areas (β estimates for all treatments > 0.56, all P < 0.07). Thus, physical watershed and lake features mediate the effects of nutrient subsidies on aquatic microbial metabolic activity.
- Bacterial community