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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 533:15-28 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11318

Stable isotopes and oceanographic modeling reveal spatial and trophic connectivity among terrestrial, estuarine, and marine environments

L. Conway-Cranos1,*, P. Kiffney1,2, N. Banas3,7, M. Plummer4,†, S. Naman1,8, P. MacCready3, J. Bucci5, M. Ruckelshaus

1Fish Ecology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA
2Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University College, PO Box 400, 2418 Elverum, Norway
3School of Oceanography, University of Washington, 1503 NE Boat Street, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
4Conservation Biology Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA
5School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, University of New Hampshire, 24 Colovos Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA
6The Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
7Present address: Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, 26 Richmond St., Glasgow G1 1XH, UK
8Present address: Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 4200-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
*Corresponding author: Deceased May 2014

ABSTRACT: Organic matter from autochthonous and allochthonous sources provides energy and nutrients to nearshore food webs including filter-feeding bivalves. In Puget Sound, Washington, USA, the degree to which shellfish rely on these different organic matter subsidies may be important for their management and that of nearshore food webs in general. We explored patterns of terrestrial-marine connectivity in a large, temperate estuary using a combination of oceanographic modeling and isotopic mixing models. We first examined spatial connectivity by modeling freshwater contributions of the major river basins to Puget Sound (potential connectivity), then estimated the relative contribution of terrestrial, nearshore, and marine organic matter sources to nearshore particulate organic matter (POM) (actual connectivity) and to the diets of Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas (realized connectivity). To estimate actual and realized connectivity, we analyzed the δ13C and δ15N values of oyster tissue, POM, and primary producers from intertidal, offshore, salt marsh, and upland habitats across the dry (summer) and wet (fall-winter) seasons. Mixing models indicated that both oyster bed POM and oyster diets were composed largely of intertidal macrophytes and salt marsh plants, with less important contributions of phytoplankton, benthic diatoms, and upland vegetation. Our findings suggest that oyster production may be driven more by coastal and marine primary production than by riverine sources, even in a fjord subject to strong freshwater influences.


KEY WORDS: Connectivity · Puget Sound · Estuaries · Stable isotopes · Oysters


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Cite this article as: Conway-Cranos L, Kiffney P, Banas N, Plummer M and others (2015) Stable isotopes and oceanographic modeling reveal spatial and trophic connectivity among terrestrial, estuarine, and marine environments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 533:15-28. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11318

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