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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 431:69-82 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09143

Seasonal variation in carbon sources of ­mesograzers and small predators in an eelgrass community: stable isotope and fatty acid analyses

Sybill Jaschinski1,*, Daniela C. Brepohl1,2, Ulrich Sommer1

1Experimental Ecology, Department of Marine Ecology, IFM-GEOMAR Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
2ICBM-TERRAMARE, Schleusenstr. 1, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

ABSTRACT: We assessed the seasonal change in trophic interactions at the mesograzer and small predator level in a temperate eelgrass system. This was done through stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) and fatty acid analyses of eelgrass Zostera marina, attached epiphytes, sand microflora, the red alga Delesseria sanguinea, and the 4 most common mesograzer and predator species. Sampling took place monthly in the western part of the Baltic Sea during a whole year (April 2002 to February 2003). The trophic importance of microalgae was corroborated in all studied species. Red algae were consumed to a lesser extent and eelgrass was of minor importance. The degree of dependence on the main carbon sources was species-specific and varied with time. The small gastropod, Rissoa membranacea, mostly grazed epiphytes (73% on average), whereas the fractions of epiphytes and sand microflora showed a more balanced pattern in the other mesograzer species. Stable carbon data and fatty acid composition strongly suggested that epiphytic algae were the primary source of organic matter for mesograzers in late spring and autumn. In summer, sand microflora were of greater importance as carbon sources, except for the amphipod Gammarus oceanicus for which red algae was the most important. Stable nitrogen values indicated that the degree of carnivory was size-dependent in both omnivorous crustacean species studied; larger individuals generally occupied a higher trophic position than did smaller ones. Furthermore, the isopod Idotea baltica was more herbivorous in summer than in the other seasons. Our results confirm the importance of species-specific and temporal variability for the effect of mesograzers in eelgrass systems. The significance of mesograzers as determinants of food-web structure via the reduction of epiphytes is further corroborated by our study, and the observed high plasticity of mesograzers concerning food sources may promote the stability of eelgrass food webs despite strong seasonal variations in the biomass of primary producers.


KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Grazing · Idotea · Gammarus · Littorina · Rissoa · Trophic interactions · Nutrition


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Cite this article as: Jaschinski S, Brepohl DC, Sommer U (2011) Seasonal variation in carbon sources of ­mesograzers and small predators in an eelgrass community: stable isotope and fatty acid analyses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 431:69-82. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09143

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