Tracing Carbon Sources through Aquatic and Terrestrial Food Webs Using Amino Acid Stable Isotope Fingerprinting.

Larsen, Thomas, Ventura, Marc, Andersen, Nils, O’Brien, Diane M., Piatkowski, Uwe and McCarthy, Matthew D. (2013) Tracing Carbon Sources through Aquatic and Terrestrial Food Webs Using Amino Acid Stable Isotope Fingerprinting. Open Access PLoS ONE, 8 (9). e73441. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0073441.

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Tracing the origin of nutrients is a fundamental goal of food web research but methodological issues associated with current research techniques such as using stable isotope ratios of bulk tissue can lead to confounding results. We investigated whether naturally occurring delta C-13 patterns among amino acids (delta C-13(AA)) could distinguish between multiple aquatic and terrestrial primary production sources. We found that delta C-13(AA) patterns in contrast to bulk delta C-13 values distinguished between carbon derived from algae, seagrass, terrestrial plants, bacteria and fungi. Furthermore, we showed for two aquatic producers that their delta C-13(AA) patterns were largely unaffected by different environmental conditions despite substantial shifts in bulk delta C-13 values. The potential of assessing the major carbon sources at the base of the food web was demonstrated for freshwater, pelagic, and estuarine consumers; consumer delta C-13 patterns of essential amino acids largely matched those of the dominant primary producers in each system. Since amino acids make up about half of organismal carbon, source diagnostic isotope fingerprints can be used as a new complementary approach to overcome some of the limitations of variable source bulk isotope values commonly encountered in estuarine areas and other complex environments with mixed aquatic and terrestrial inputs.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Isotopes; Mussels; Seaweed; Ecosystems; Marine fish; Algae; Food web structure
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EV Marine Evolutionary Ecology
Kiel University
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073441
ISSN: 1932-6203
Projects: Future Ocean, Carlsbergfondet
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2013 08:55
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 21:31

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