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Modification of benthic food web structure by recovering seagrass meadows, as revealed by trophic markers and mixing models
Jankowska, E.; De Troch, M.; Michel, L.N.; Lepoint, G.; Wlodarska-Kowalczuka, M. (2018). Modification of benthic food web structure by recovering seagrass meadows, as revealed by trophic markers and mixing models. Ecol. Indic. 90: 28-37.
In: Ecological Indicators. Elsevier: Shannon. ISSN 1470-160X; e-ISSN 1872-7034, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Acids > Organic compounds > Organic acids > Fatty acids
Author keywords
    Food web ecology; Trophic markers; Stable isotopes; Ecosystem functioning; Seagrass meadows

Authors  Top 
  • Jankowska, E.
  • De Troch, M., more
  • Michel, L.N., more
  • Lepoint, G., more
  • Wlodarska-Kowalczuka, M.

    Seagrass meadows are among the most diverse and productive coastal ecosystems in the world. Currently, the accelerating loss of these habitats is recognized worldwide. In the southern Baltic Sea, a natural recovery of Zostera marina meadows has occurred after a dramatic reduction within the last century. The aim of this study is to understand if and how the recovering eelgrass meadows affect the functioning of benthic ecosystems. The trophic links within the benthic food webs in the seagrass meadows and bare sandy bottoms were depicted and compared. The trophic connections were examined by combining stable isotope (SI) composition (δ13C, δ15N) and fatty acid (FA) profiles of meio- and macrofauna consumers and of potential food sources (particulate organic matter, surface sediment organic matter, epiphytes, microphytobenthos/bacteria and macrophytes) in a Bayesian mixing model framework (MixSIAR). Significantly higher amounts of the FA bacterial marker (C18:1ɷ7) were observed in meiofauna (approximately 40%) than in the macrofauna (1% on average), suggesting that bacteria are an important part of the meiofauna diet. The mixing model results indicated that the benthic consumers in the vegetated habitat utilized more food sources (e.g., epiphytes in the diets of meiofauna and macrofaunal grazers) and thus had a more diverse diet. Macrofaunal omnivores relied to a larger degree on animal-derived organic matter in vegetated habitat, which could be linked to higher invertebrate prey availability. The results highlight the importance of recovering seagrass meadows in driving the mechanisms responsible for food web organization. Any type of change to the state of seagrass meadows is crucial to the functioning and stability of marine ecosystems.

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