AME 46:273-282 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/ame046273

Linking larval chironomids to methane: seasonal variation of the microbial methane cycle and chironomid δ13C

Peter Deines1,*, Jonathan Grey1,2, Hans-Hermann Richnow3, Gundula Eller1

1Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Department of Physiological Ecology, August-Thienemann-Str. 2, 24306 Plön, Germany
2School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK
3UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany

ABSTRACT: Methane-derived carbon has been shown to be an important carbon source for macroinvertebrates in several studies of lake ecosystems using stable isotopes. Furthermore, season and lake morphology appear to influence the importance of methane as a carbon source. However, rarely have the dynamics of the methane cycle been measured concurrently with the isotope signatures of chironomid larvae. We examined the methane dynamics in 2 lakes with contrasting mixing regimes (polymictic and dimictic), while monitoring corresponding changes in chironomid larval δ13C throughout an annual cycle. Both methane turnover rates and abundance of methane-oxidising bacteria were higher in the dimictic lake, where correspondingly lower mean larval δ13C values of –44.2 to –61.7‰ were recorded. In contrast, potential methane production and oxidation rates, as well as cell numbers of methane-oxidising bacteria were always lower in the polymictic lake; corresponding larval δ13C values ranged from –32.3 to –29.6‰. Furthermore, seasonal variation in larval δ13C was more pronounced in the dimictic lake (–50.1 ± 5.9‰) compared to the polymictic lake (–31.1 ± 1.2‰), reflecting the amplitude of turnover rates. This suggests strongly that lake characteristics have an influence on methane turnover rates and, in conjunction with season, affect the subsequent incorporation of methane-derived carbon into freshwater food webs via macroinvertebrates.

KEY WORDS: Methane cycle · Stable isotopes · Chironomid larvae · Seasonality

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