Clancy, N.G., J. Brahney, J. Dunnigan, and P. Budy. 2021. Effects of a diatom ecosystem engineer (Didymosphenia geminata) on stream food webs: implications for native fishes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 78: 154–164 (2021) dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2020-0121. USGS FSP: IP-118864.
Stream habitat changes affecting primary consumers often indirectly impact secondary consumers such as fishes. Blooms of the benthic algae Didymosphenia geminata (Didymo) are known to affect stream macroinvertebrates, but the potential indirect trophic impacts on fish consumers are poorly understood. In streams of the Kootenai River basin, we quantified the diet, condition, and growth rate of trout, charr, and sculpin. In 2018, macroinvertebrate taxa composition was different between a stream with Didymo and a stream without, but trout diets, energy demand, and growth rates were similar. Trout abundance was higher in the stream with Didymo, but the amount of drifting invertebrates was higher in the stream without. In 2019, we surveyed 28 streams with a gradient of coverage. Didymo abundance was correlated only with the percent of aquatic invertebrates in trout diets and was not related to diets of charr or sculpin or condition of any species. Thus, we found no evidence for a trophic link between Didymo blooms and the condition or growth of trout, charr, or sculpin in mountainous headwater streams.