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Food web structure within kelp holdfasts (Laminaria): a stable isotope study

Authors

  • Gauthier Schaal,

    1.  Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
    2.  UPMC Univ Paris 06, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Roscoff, France
    3.  CNRS, UMR 7144 AD2M, Roscoff, France
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  • Pascal Riera,

    1.  UPMC Univ Paris 06, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Roscoff, France
    2.  CNRS, UMR 7144 AD2M, Roscoff, France
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  • Cédric Leroux

    1.  UPMC Univ Paris 06, Station Biologique de Roscoff, Roscoff, France
    2.  CNRS, FR 2424, Roscoff, France
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Gauthier Schaal, Department of Zoology and Entomology, PO Box 94, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 6140 South Africa.
E-mail: G.Schaal@ru.ac.za

Abstract

Kelp holdfasts are highly reticulated structures which host a large diversity of small fauna. These microhabitats have been reported to play a crucial role in the biodiversity associated to kelp forest ecosystems. This study aimed at identifying trophic links and the main food sources sustaining food webs within communities associated with kelp holdfasts, through a stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) approach. Sampling of the main invertebrates inhabiting Laminaria digitata holdfasts, and of their potential food sources, took place in February and May 2007. Stable isotope results reveal that most of the primary consumers, including filter-feeders and deposit-feeders, rely on the particulate organic matter sedimented within kelp holdfasts. Only three grazers departed from this general pattern. The correspondence between the stable isotope ratios of predators and sediment consumers indicated that this source is at the base of the main pathway through which energy and matter transit in the food web. δ15N ranges found for consumers revealed that the food web associated with kelp holdfasts is composed of 3.5 levels. In spite of the low diversity of food sources at the base of the food web, these microhabitats can therefore be considered micro-scale ecosystems, from a functional perspective.

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