MEPS 166:143-150 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps166143

δ15N of organic matter sources and benthic invertebrates along an estuarine gradient in Marennes-Oléron Bay (France): implications for the study of trophic structure

Pascal Riera*

Centre de Recherche en Ecologie Marine et Aquaculture de L'Houmeau, UMR 10, CNRS-IFREMER, BP 5, Place du Séminaire,F-17137 L'Houmeau, France
*Present address: NIOO-CEMO, Postbus 140, 4400 AC, Yerseke, The Netherlands. E-mail:

This study examined the δ15N of suspended and sedimented particulate organic matter, primary sources of organic matter and benthic invertebrates along an estuarine gradient in Marennes-Oléron Bay, France. Particular emphasis was given to the use of δ15N as a tracer of the origin of organic matter and as a means of determining the benthic food web structure in estuarine environments. δ15N values indicated that there was direct utilisation of benthic diatoms as a food source by oyster Crassostrea gigas near intertidal mudflats but suggested trophic mediation between terrestrial detritus and oysters in the upper estuarine reaches. δ15N data showed that the trophic position of oysters may vary in the estuarine bay. The δ15N values for the other invertebrates investigated revealed that apparent discrepancies may occur concerning the correspondence between δ15N, trophic level and feeding mode of invertebrates in estuarine ecosystems. In fact, these results suggest that δ15N can be a useful tool to characterise trophic transfers and to establish an isotopic food web model, provided that one considers the different feeding habitats along the estuarine gradient.

Nitrogen isotope ratio · Particulate organic matter · Crassostrea gigas · Benthic food web · Estuary · Marennes-Oléron Bay

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