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J. Ryan Bellmore

Headshot portrait of J. Ryan Bellmore

Research Fish Biologist
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Juneau Forestry Sciences Lab

Contact via email
Phone: (907) 586-7805
Fax: (907) 586-7848

Curriculum Vitae (190 KB)

Statement of Research:

My research focuses on the ecology of streams, rivers, and lakes. These freshwater ecosystems are some of the most
imperiled environments on Earth, and as a result, are frequent targets for restoration. Much of my research is aimed at
evaluating: (1) the effects of human degradation and environmental change on freshwater ecosystems, and (2) the potential
consequences of different management strategies designed to mitigate or reverse the undesirable effects associated with system
change. The overall objective of my research is to gain a better understanding of complex mechanisms that support the resilience
and productivity of these important ecosystems, and in so doing, contributing to better-informed restoration, conservation, and
stewardship of freshwater resources. I am particularly interested in food webs, which describe the flows of energy and material
that support organisms, populations, communities, and ultimately, the natural resources and ecosystem services that freshwaters
provide. My current research involves combining tools and theory from food-web ecology, ecosystem ecology, and system dynamics
modeling to understand the flows of energy that support populations of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead during their
freshwater residence.

Projects & Activities:

Conceptual diagram of the structure of the Aquatic Trophic Productivity Model.

Conceptual diagram of the Aquatic Trophic Productivity Model, illustrating: (1) biomass stocks of organisms and organic matter (rectangular boxes), (2) consumer-resource interactions (thick arrows), (3) inputs of energy, nutrients, and organic matter from outside the system (thin arrows) and (4) explicit linkages to in-stream physical habitat and adjacent riparian vegetation.

Decision Support Modeling for River Restoration and Salmon Recovery
Restoration is frequently aimed at the recovery of
target species but also influences the larger food web
within which these species participate. Effects of
restoration on this broader network of organisms can
influence target fish species both directly and indirectly
via changes in energy flow through food webs. To help
incorporate these complexities into river restoration
planning, we have been working on the development of a
dynamic food web model, termed the Aquatic Trophic
Productivity model, which links the dynamics of river
food webs to in-stream physical habitat and riparian
vegetation conditions. By working with partners in the
upper Columbia River basin in Washington state, we have
been using this model to explore food web and fish responses
to restoration alternatives—information which can be used
to inform restoration decision-making.


Partners: USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Bureau of Reclamation, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation

Food web diagram of fish consumers and prey resources in a floodplain channel of the Methow River, Washington.

Stream invertebrates serve as prey resources for fish consumers in a floodplain channel of the Methow River, Washington.

Quantifying Energy Flow through Salmon Food Webs
Energy and material flow through river food webs can exert
strong controls on stream fish populations. In the Methow
River in north-central Washington, on-going research is aimed
at exploring the pathways and magnitudes of energy flow that
support juvenile salmon and steelhead, as well as the other
non-salmonid species that are commonly found in Pacific Northwest
streams (mountain whitefish, sculpin, dace, and suckers). This
research also includes studies aimed at quantifying the spatial
and temporal dynamics of stream metabolism (i.e., gross primary
production and ecosystem respiration), and terrestrial organic
matter (leaf litter and terrestrial insects). Thus far, this
research shows that basal organic matter production, and the
pathways by which organic matter is routed through the food web,
varies significantly at different locations in the river network.
In a river-floodplain segment of the Methow River, for example,
different aquatic habitat patches across the floodplain had very
different local food webs, with different strengths of interaction
between fish predators and their invertebrate prey—a finding which
has implications for ecological resilience and river restoration.

Partners: USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Washington State University, Idaho State University, University of Idaho

Chart: dam removals and dam removal studies in the U.S., 1944-2014.

Compilation of dams removed and dams with at least one published study by: (a) cumulative frequency distribution by year removed (exclusive of dams with no known date of removal), with a count of the number of dam removal studies published each year inserted below the x-axis, and (b) relative frequency (percent) in each dam height category. Data from American Rivers (2014) and Bellmore et al. (2015).

Reviewing the Physical and Ecological Responses to Dam Removal
Dam decommissioning is rapidly emerging as an important river
restoration strategy in the U.S., but few studies have evaluated
the far-reaching consequences of these significant environmental
perturbations. In particular, interactions between physical and
ecological aspects of dam removal are poorly known. This project
is aimed at identifying what scientific information currently exists,
and then reviewing what is currently know about the physical,
chemical, and ecological responses to dam removal,
thereby providing a basis for formulating realistic expectations
for river restoration in addition to identifying key information
gaps and research needs.

Partners: USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, NOAA Fisheries, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, University of Montana, Dartmouth College, Oregon State University

Selected Publications:

Note: Most PDF files linked in the publications section of this page were not created by the USDA Forest Service, and may not be accessible to screen-reader software. Many publications are open access, and links to the html versions on the journal websites are also provided, where applicable.

Bellmore, J.R., J.R. Benjamin, M. Newsom, J.A. Bountry, and D. Dombrowski. 2017. Incorporating food web dynamics into ecological restoration: a modeling approach for river ecosystems. Ecological Applications 27(3) 814-832. Link to https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1486.

Roon, D., J. Dunham, B. Harvey, R. Bellmore, D. Olson, and G. Reeves. 2017. Evaluating the ecological trade-offs of riparian thinning for headwater stream ecosystems in second-growth redwood forests. In: R.B. Standiford and Y. Valachovic. Coast redwood science symposium--2016: Past successes and future direction. General Technical Report PSW-GTR-258. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 199-201.

Foley, M.M., J.R. Bellmore, J.E. O'Connor, J.J. Duda, A.E. East, G.E. Grant, C.W. Anderson, J.A. Bountry, M.J. Collins, P.J. Connolly, L.S. Craig, J.E. Evans, S.L. Greene, F.J. Magilligan, C.S. Magirl, J.J. Major, G.R. Pess, T.J. Randle, P.B. Shafroth, C.E. Torgersen, D. Tullos, and A.C. Wilcox. 2017. Dam removal: Listening in. Water Resources Research 57(7): 5229-5246. Link to DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/2017WR020457.

Sergeant, C.J., R.J. Bellmore, C. McConnell, and J.W. Moore. 2017. High salmon density and low discharge create periodic hypoxia in coastal rivers. Ecosphere 8(6): e01846. Link to DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1846

Bellmore, J.R., J.J. Duda, L.S. Craig, S.L. Greene, C.E. Torgersen, M.J. Collins, and K. Vittum. 2016. Status and trends of dam removal research in the United States. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water (WIRES: Water): 4(2): e1164. Link to DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1164

Benjamin, J.R., J.R. Bellmore, and G.A. Watson. 2016. Response of ecosystem metabolism to low densities of spawning Chinook Salmon. Freshwater Science Link to doi:10.1086/686686

Tullos, D.D., M.J. Collins, J.R. Bellmore, J.A. Bountry, P.J. Connolly, P.B. Shafroth, and A.C. Wilcox. 2016. Synthesis of common management concerns associated with dam removal. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association 52(5): 1179-1206. Link to DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1752-1688.12450

Bellmore, J.R., C.V. Baxter, and P.J. Connolly. 2015. Spatial complexity reduces interaction strengths in the meta-food web of a river floodplain mosaic. Ecology 96(1): 274-283. Link to doi:10.1890/14-0733.1

Bellmore, J.R., and C.V. Baxter. 2014. Effects of geomorphic process domains on river ecosystems: a comparison of floodplain and confined valley segments. River Research and Applications 30: 617-630. Link to doi:10.1002/rra.2672

Bellmore, J.R., A.K. Fremier, F. Mejia, and M. Newsom. 2014. The response of stream periphyton to Pacific salmon: Using a model to understand the role of environmental context.. Freshwater Ecology 59: 1437-1451. Link to doi:10.1111/fwb.12356

Bellmore, J.R., C.V. Baxter, K. Martens, and P.J. Connolly. 2013. The floodplain food web mosaic: a study of its importance to salmon and steelhead with implications for their recovery. Ecological Applications 23(1): 189-207. Link to DOI: 10.1890/12-0806.1.

Bellmore, J.R., C.V. Baxter, A.M. Ray, L. Denny, K. Tardy, and E. Galloway. 2012. Assessing the potential for salmon recovery via floodplain restoration: a multitrophic level comparison of dredge-mined to reference segments. Environmental Management 49: 734-750. Link to DOI 10.1007/s00267-012-9813-x.

Shields, B.A., K.L. Groves, C. Rombaugh, and R. Bellmore. 2002. Ligulosis associated with mortality in largescale suckers. Journal of Fish Biology 61:448-455. Link to DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2002.tb01576.x.