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Importance of terrestrial subsidies for estuarine food webs in contrasting East African catchments
Abrantes, K.G.; Barnett, A.; Marwick, T.R.; Bouillon, S. (2013). Importance of terrestrial subsidies for estuarine food webs in contrasting East African catchments. Ecosphere 4(1): 21 + appendices.
In: Ecosphere. Wiley-Blackwell. ISSN 2150-8925, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Marine/Coastal; Brackish water; Fresh water
Author keywords
    Africa; Bayesian mixing models; catchment; estuaries; stable isotopes;terrestrial subsidies

Authors  Top 
  • Abrantes, K.G., more
  • Barnett, A.
  • Marwick, T.R., more
  • Bouillon, S., more

    Little is known on the degree to which terrestrial organic matter delivered to tropical estuaries contributes to estuarine consumers. Here, stable isotope analysis is used to constrain this contribution for contrasting east African estuaries whose catchments differ in relative C3/C4 vegetation cover. As these two types of vegetation differ strongly in d13C, we anticipated that terrestrial subsidies would be reflected in a gradient in estuarine consumer d13C values, following the relative importance of C3 (characterised by low d13C) vs. C4 (characterised by high d13C) cover. Five estuaries were sampled for aquatic biogeochemical parameters, primary producers and consumers of different trophic ecologies: the Zambezi (catchment with a C3/C4 cover of 61/39%) in Mozambique, the Tana in Kenya (36/64%) and the Betsiboka (42/58%), Rianila (85/15%) and Canal des Pangalanes (C3-dominated) in Madagascar. Sampling was done before and after the 2010/2011 wet season. There were positive relationships between the proportion of C4 cover in the catchment and turbidity, d13CDIC, d13CDOC, d13CPOC and d15NPN. There were also significant positive relationships between d13CPOC and consumer d13C and between d15NPN and consumer d15N for all consumer trophic guilds, confirming the incorporation of organic material transported from the catchments by estuarine consumers, and implying that this material is transported up to high trophic level fish. Bayesian mixing models confirmed that C4 material was the most important source for the highly turbid, C4-dominated estuaries, contributing up to 61–91% (95% CI) to phytodetritivorous fish in the Betsiboka, whereas for the less turbid C3-dominated estuaries terrestrial subsidies were not as important and consumers relied on a combination of terrestrial and aquatic sources. This shows that the ecology of the overall catchment affects the estuaries at the most basic, energetic level, and activities that alter the turbidity and productivity of rivers and estuaries can affect food webs well beyond the area of impact.

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