Seasonal variation in carbon sources of mesograzers and small predators in an eelgrass community: stable isotope and fatty acid analyses

Jaschinski, Sybill, Brepohl, Daniela C. and Sommer, Ulrich (2011) Seasonal variation in carbon sources of mesograzers and small predators in an eelgrass community: stable isotope and fatty acid analyses Marine Ecology Progress Series, 431 . pp. 69-82. DOI 10.3354/meps09143.

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We assessed the seasonal change in trophic interactions at the mesograzer and small predator level in a temperate eelgrass system. This was done through stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) and fatty acid analyses of eelgrass Zostera marina, attached epiphytes, sand microflora, the red alga Delesseria sanguinea, and the 4 most common mesograzer and predator species. Sampling took place monthly in the western part of the Baltic Sea during a whole year (April 2002 to February 2003). The trophic importance of microalgae was corroborated in all studied species. Red algae were consumed to a lesser extent and eelgrass was of minor importance. The degree of dependence on the main carbon sources was species-specific and varied with time. The small gastropod, Rissoa membranacea, mostly grazed epiphytes (73% on average), whereas the fractions of epiphytes and sand microflora showed a more balanced pattern in the other mesograzer species. Stable carbon data and fatty acid composition strongly suggested that epiphytic algae were the primary source of organic matter for mesograzers in late spring and autumn. In summer, sand microflora were of greater importance as carbon sources, except for the amphipod Gammarus oceanicus for which red algae was the most important. Stable nitrogen values indicated that the degree of carnivory was size-dependent in both omnivorous crustacean species studied; larger individuals generally occupied a higher trophic position than did smaller ones. Furthermore, the isopod Idotea baltica was more herbivorous in summer than in the other seasons. Our results confirm the importance of species-specific and temporal variability for the effect of mesograzers in eelgrass systems. The significance of mesograzers as determinants of food-web structure via the reduction of epiphytes is further corroborated by our study, and the observed high plasticity of mesograzers concerning food sources may promote the stability of eelgrass food webs despite strong seasonal variations in the biomass of primary producers.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Food Webs; Seagrass; Grazing; Idotea; Gammarus; Littorina; Rissoa; Trophic interactions; Nutrition
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EOE-N Experimental Ecology - Food Webs
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.3354/meps09143
ISSN: 0171-8630
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2011 11:48
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2016 12:46

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