How well are velocity effects on ∂13C signatures transmitted up the food web from algae to fish?


Joseph B. Rasmussen, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Dr. W Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1K 3M4.


1. Benthic algae fractionate carbon isotopes less at low water velocities because of reduced boundary layer exchange, and this effect on δ13C is passed on to consumers via trophic transfer. This study examines the relationships between δ13C signatures of consumers (invertebrates and salmonid fishes) and water velocity in the Sainte Marguerite River, QC, Canada, and compares them to patterns for periphyton, both along the river main-stem and in a small tributary.

2. Relationships of δ13C signatures of herbivore/grazers and collector/gatherers with water velocity were strong and similar to those of periphyton, but relationships for filter-feeders were weak, probably reflecting the effect of spatial averaging of their food supply as a result of downstream transport.

3. Velocity effects on salmonid signatures were much weaker than those of lower trophic levels, being barely significant except in the small tributary where the fish were resident and isolated from the main river. In the river main-stem, even when reach standardised (reach mean subtracted from each data point), fish signatures were only weakly related to water velocity.

4. The fidelity with which velocity effects are transmitted to consumers from benthic algae is highly variable, and depends on a combination of consumer and resource movements, in addition to the trophic position of the consumer.