Isotopic evidence for the spatial heterogeneity of the planktonic food webs in the transition zone between river and lake ecosystems

PeerJ. 2013 Dec 12:1:e222. doi: 10.7717/peerj.222. eCollection 2013.


Resources and organisms in food webs are distributed patchily. The spatial structure of food webs is important and critical to understanding their overall structure. However, there is little available information about the small-scale spatial structure of food webs. We investigated the spatial structure of food webs in a lake ecosystem at the littoral transition zone between an inflowing river and a lake. We measured the carbon isotope ratios of zooplankton and particulate organic matter (POM; predominantly phytoplankton) in the littoral zone of a saline lake. Parallel changes in the δ (13)C values of zooplankton and their respective POMs indicated that there is spatial heterogeneity of the food web in this study area. Lake ecosystems are usually classified at the landscape level as either pelagic or littoral habitats. However, we showed small-scale spatial heterogeneity among planktonic food webs along an environmental gradient. Stable isotope data is useful for detecting spatial heterogeneity of habitats, populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Keywords: Carbon; Food web; Heterogeneity; Isotope; Lake; Phytoplankton; Plankton; Spatial scale; Zooplankton.

Grants and funding

This study was supported by JSPS KAKENSHI (No. 13575004, 16405005). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.