Stable isotope variability in a Chilean fjord food web: implications for N- and C-cycles

Mayr, Christoph, Försterra, Günter, Häussermann, Verena, Wunderlich, Anja, Grau, Jürke, Zieringer, Moritz and Altenbach, Alexander (2011) Stable isotope variability in a Chilean fjord food web: implications for N- and C-cycles Marine Ecology Progress Series, 428 . pp. 89-104. DOI 10.3354/meps09015.

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We analysed carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope ratios of organisms and biogenic tissues from Comau Fjord (southern Chile) to characterise benthic food webs and spatial isotope variability in this ecosystem. These values were intended to serve as a baseline for detecting anthropogenic impacts on Patagonian marine fjord ecosystems in later studies. Benthic macro algae and invertebrate suspension feeders were primarily considered, with some supplementary data from cyanobacteria, plankton, fish, and coastal vertebrates. Six depth transects typified the lateral salinity gradients from the innermost part of the fjord to its mouth, as well as the vertical density gradients caused by freshwater inflow. Carbon isotope signatures indicated predominant consumption of either CO2 or HCO3– for benthic macroalgal. All CO2 users belonged to rhodophytes. The δ15N values of benthic macrophytes decreased with decreasing salinity, both vertically and along the fjord axis. This implies the influence of 15N-poor terrestrial dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) at these sites. Enhanced influence of freshwater influx also lowered N contents and increased C/N ratios in algal tissues. Exceptionally high macroalgae δ15N values at the seabird and sealion colony Isla Liliguapi point to animal faeces as an additional source of 15N-enriched DIN. Thus, DIN sources not originating from the open sea are additionally utilised by the benthic macroalgae in the fjord. In contrast, mussel tissue from the same locations was much less influenced by varying DIN sources. Among benthic suspension feeders, mytilids (Mytilus chilensis, Aulacomya ater) had the lowest and scleractinian corals (Desmophyllum dianthus) had the highest δ15N values, and Balanidae (Elminius kingii) and gorgonians (Primnoella sp.) showed values in between. The preference for specific size classes of marine particulate organic matter (seston) as food serves as an explanation for the δ15N variability observed between the different benthic suspension feeders.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Food Webs; Ecology; Marine Biology; Patagonian fjord · Nutrient sources · Marine food web · Nitrogen · Carbon · Benthic macroalgae · Suspension feeders · Trophic isotope enrichment
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-P-OZ Paleo-Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.3354/meps09015
ISSN: 0171-8630
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2011 09:28
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2012 15:07

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