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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 467:47-59 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09945

Spatial variability of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope ratios in an Arctic marine food web

Joan Holst Hansen1,*, Rasmus Berg Hedeholm2,3, Kaj Sünksen2, Jens Tang Christensen1, Peter Grønkjær1

1Marine Ecology, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
2Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, and 3Greenland Climate Research Centre, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland

ABSTRACT: Stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) were used to examine trophic structures in an arctic marine food web at small and large spatial scales. Twelve species, from primary consumers to Greenland shark, were sampled at a large spatial scale near the west and east coasts of Greenland. There was a significant positive latitudinal effect on δ15N values, which varied by 2 to 5‰ over the sample range. This latitudinal pattern was also illustrated by the negative correlation between the productive open-water period and baseline δ15N values. At a smaller spatial scale, 8 species from the Nuuk Fjord were compared with species sampled in waters immediately offshore. All values of δ15N and δ13C (except for Calanus finmarchicus) were more enriched inshore than offshore. The use of C. finmarchicus δ15N and δ13C values as a baseline explained a portion of the spatial variability in isotopes, attributing some of the variation to physical and biological sources. Hence, significant differences in isotopic signatures on both large and small spatial scales were less related to food web structure than to different physical and biological properties of the water masses. Accordingly, the results illustrate the importance of spatial variability when interpreting trophic structure from stable isotopes.


KEY WORDS: δ15N · δ13C · Greenland · Latitudinal effects · Marine food web · Ecohydrography ·  Isoscapes


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Cite this article as: Hansen JH, Hedeholm RB, Sünksen K, Tang Christensen J, Grønkjær P (2012) Spatial variability of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotope ratios in an Arctic marine food web. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 467:47-59. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09945

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