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Keywords:

  • trophic position;
  • stable isotope;
  • dietary;
  • fish;
  • benthic;
  • omnivory;
  • habitat coupling;
  • feeding guild;
  • trophic relationship

Abstract

Stable nitrogen isotope ratios (δ15N) and gut content analysis are commonly used to detect trophic relationships in aquatic systems. Nonetheless, the use of δ15N in determining the suitability of quantitative and qualitative dietary data as representations of trophic relationships in lake ecosystems remains unverified. Quantitative and qualitative dietary data on 46 fish species were obtained from field surveys in the floodplain lakes of the Yangtze Plain to calculate trophic position and benthivory. Dietary measures using the stable isotope approach were validated. The dietary approach yields comparable results in detecting trophic relationships in lake ecosystems. Our estimation of the benthivory of the 46 fish species ranged from 1.5% to 100%, with an average of 60.3%. These figures support the assumption that benthic energy pathways account for more than half of total fish consumption. Our feeding guild data confirm that more than 50% (including 25 species) of the studied fish species in the floodplain lakes of the Yangtze Plain are omnivorous, suggesting that omnivory is prevalent among subtropical floodplain lakes.