Food web structure in two counter-rotating eddies based on δ15N and δ13C isotopic analyses

Anya Waite, B.A. Muhling, C.M. Holl, L.E. Beckley, J.P. Montoya, J. Strzelecki, P.A. Thompson, S.C. Pesant

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    Abstract

    We measured the natural inventories of nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes within various ecosystem fractions of two counter-rotating eddies associated with the poleward Leeuwin Current (LC), off Western Australia. Isotopic signatures (delta N-15 and (delta C-13) were used as proxies for trophic transformation of inorganic and organic matter and are the basis for our discussion on food web functions in the two eddies. We present the first measurements of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) isotopic composition for the eastern Indian Ocean. We show that the large autotrophs (sampled within the >5-mu m and >20-mu m fractions of particulate organic matter (POM)), including a distinctive diatom population in the warm-core (WC) eddy, are likely to have taken up sources of DIN which were primarily nitrate, while the picoplankton are likely to have assimilated a large fraction of recycled ammonium. We show that phytoplankton in the cold-core (CC) eddy had distinctly more enriched delta N-15 signatures than in the WC eddy, probably due to the higher vertical fluxes of nitrate into the CC eddy. A clear negative correlation between mixed-layer depth and delta N-15 in POM across both eddies also supports the role of vertical nitrate fluxes in determining the primary delta N-15 signature of the autotrophs. Within the WC eddy, there was a significant delta C-13-enrichment in comparison to the CC eddy across all size fractions of the mesozooplankton community, which, in combination with a low C:N molar ratio the > 200- and > 500-mu m mesozooplankton size fractions, suggests a healthier mesozooplankton community, with greater lipid storage, in the WC eddy. This is consistent with the greater productivity and biomass of large diatoms in the WC eddy. Larval fish from the WC eddy also had an enriched delta C-13 signature compared to those from the CC eddy. The WC eddy had higher production rates than the CC eddy, and harboured a physiologically healthier population of zooplankton. Paradoxically, this seemed to occur despite higher overall nitrate fluxes into the CC eddy, and may have to do with the particularly active diatom population within the WC eddy operating within the unusually deep mixed layer. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1055-1075
    JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
    Volume54
    Issue number8-10
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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