Original paper

Isotopic variation complicates analysis of trophic relations within the fish community of Plusharpsee: a small, deep, stratifying lake

Harrod, Chris; Grey, Jonathan


Analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes has allowed freshwater ecologists to examine lake food webs in increasing detail. Many such studies have highlighted the existence of separate within-lake pelagic and benthic-littoral food webs but are typically conducted on large (> 10 km2) lakes, whereas the majority of lakes are actually relatively small. We used stable isotope analysis (δ13C & δ15N) to examine trophic interactions between fish and their prey in Plußsee, as an example of a small, stratifying lake, and to determine whether separate pelagic/benthic-littoral food webs could be distinguished in such systems. Our results indicate that the Plußsee food web was complicated, and due to extensive intra-annual isotopic variation in zooplankton (e.g.cladoceran δ13C annual range = 25.6‰), it may be impossible to definitively assign consumers from small, eutrophic stratified lakes to pelagic or benthic-littoral food webs. We present evidence that some components of the Plußsee food web (large bream) may be subsidised by carbon of methanogenic origin.


delta13cdelta15nstable isotope analysisfood weblake sizepelagicbenthic-littoral