allochthonous subsidies, Arctic Char, compound-specific stable isotopes, diet tracing, energy flow, fatty acids, lake, mesocosms, trophic ecology
Tracing the flow of dietary energy sources, especially in systems with a high degree of omnivory, is an ongoing challenge in ecology. In aquatic systems, one of the persistent challenges is in differentiating between autochthonous and allochthonous energy sources to top consumers. Bulk carbon stable isotope values of aquatic and terrestrial prey often overlap, making it difficult to delineate dietary energy pathways in food webs with high allochthonous prey subsidies, such as in many northern temperate waterbodies. We conducted a feeding experiment to explore how fatty acid stable isotopes may overcome the challenge of partitioning autochthonous and allochthonous energy pathways in aquatic consumers. We fed hatchery-reared Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus) diets of either benthic invertebrates, terrestrial earthworms, or a mixture of both. We then compared how the stable carbon isotopes of fatty acids (δ13CFA) distinguished between diet items and respective treatments in S. alpinus liver and muscle tissues, relative to bulk stable isotopes and fatty acid profiles. Although a high degree of variability of fatty acid stable carbon isotope values was present in all three measures, our results suggest that the ability of this method to overcome the challenges of bulk stable isotopes may be overstated. Finally, our study highlights the importance of further experimental investigation, and consideration of physiological and biochemical processes when employing this emerging method.
Chiapella, A. M., Kainz, M. J., and Strecker, A. L.. 2021. Fatty acid stable isotopes add clarity, but also complexity, to tracing energy pathways in aquatic food webs. Ecosphere 12( 2):e03360. 10.1002/ecs2.3360
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
Food chains (Ecology; Fish hatcheries
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