, Volume 325, Issue 3, pp 219-222

First online:

Scope for use of stable carbon isotopes in discerning the incorporation of forest detritus into aquatic foodwebs

  • R. L. FranceAffiliated withDept. Biology, McGill University

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Stable isotope analysis of carbon has been proposed as a means for discerning the incorporation of terrestrial forest detritus into aquatic foodwebs, and as such, has the potential to be used as a biomonitor of the aquatic effects of riparian deforestation. A synthesis of 13C/12C data from the literature indicates, however, that the scope for successful use of carbon isotope analysis in separating allochthonous and autochthonous food provenance is much more limited than was once thought. This occurs due the overlap in carbon isotope ratios between terrestrial forest detritus and those of both lotic attached algae and lentic filamentous attached algae. Only within rockyshored, oligotrophic lakes without macrophytes, and forest-fringed estuaries and lagoons, where the carbon isotope ratios for attached algae and forest detritus are significantly different, is there any likelihood of discerning the incorporation of allochthonous carbon into aquatic foodwebs using 13C/12C values alone.

Key words

13C/12C ratios forest detritus riparian deforestation