, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 493–503 | Cite as

Conserving connectivity: Human influence on subsidy transfer and relevant restoration efforts

  • Emily V. Buckner
  • Daniel L. Hernández
  • Jameal F. Samhouri


Conservation efforts tend to focus on the direct impacts humans have on their surrounding environment; however there are also many ways in which people indirectly affect ecosystems. Recent research on ecological subsidies—the transfer of energy and nutrients from one ecosystem to another—has highlighted the importance of nutrient exchange for maintaining productivity and diversity at a landscape scale, while also pointing toward the fragility of ecotones and vulnerability of subsidies to human activities. We review the recent literature on landscape connectivity and ecosystem subsidies from aquatic systems to terrestrial systems. Based on this review, we propose a conceptual model of how human activities may alter or eliminate the flow of energy and nutrients between ecosystems by influencing the delivery of subsidies along the pathway of transfer. To demonstrate the utility of this conceptual model, we discuss it in the context of case studies of subsidies derived from salmon, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and shoreline debris. Subsidy restoration may require a different set of actions from simply reversing the pathway of degradation. We suggest that effective restoration and conservation efforts will require a multifaceted approach, targeting many steps along the subsidy transfer pathway, to address these issues.


Conservation Ecotone Ecological subsidies Landscape connectivity 



We would like to thank the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation for their generous support of the Ocean Tipping Points project, friends and family for their support, and the public library system for its unwavering presence and generous hours wherever/whenever the paper needed to be worked on (especially the Elizabeth C. Miller Library and the public libraries located in Ely, MN, and Fairbanks, AK). We also gratefully acknowledge BHO for his compassion during the development of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton CollegeNorthfieldUSA
  2. 2.Conservation Biology DivisionNorthwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSeattleUSA
  3. 3.SeattleUSA

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