The structure of subtidal food webs in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, as revealed by the analysis of stable isotopes
We analyzed stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to investigate the trophic structure of the subtidal food web around the Mingan Islands, northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, eastern Canada. All benthic consumers were enriched in 13C (mean δ13C of –17.1‰) compared to particulate organic matter (POM: –23.3‰). Nitrogen stable isotope ratios ranged from 6‰ to 14‰ and the organisms studied fell into three distinct trophic groups, primary producers, primary consumers (herbivores), and predators. The sea star Crossaster papposus and the sculpin Myoxocephalus scorpius, known to be top level predators, had slightly higher δ15N than other predators. Although the average isotope signature of the sea star Solaster endeca placed it among regular predators, the δ15N increased with sea star size and large individuals could be considered as top predators. The relatively small number of organisms located at intermediate trophic levels suggests a low level of omnivory in the Mingan Islands’ system, which contrasts with previously described benthic systems that exhibit a continuum between herbivores and predators. Low omnivory, in addition to low diversity, suggests that this ecosystem may be relatively unstable if exposed to natural and/or anthropogenic disturbances such as exploitation and climate change.
Auteurs du document :
Marc-Olivier Nadon, John H. Himmelman
Obtenir le document :
EDP Sciences, IFREMER, IRD
Mots clés :
Stable isotopes, Food webs, Omnivory, Community structure, Trophic interaction, Gulf of St. Lawrence