Evidence for benthic primary production support of an apex predator–dominated coral reef food web
Five hundred and ninety-nine primary producers and consumers in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) (22°N–30°N, 160°W–180°W) were sampled for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope composition to elucidate trophic relationships in a relatively unimpacted, apex predator–dominated coral reef ecosystem. A one-isotope (δ13C), two-source (phytoplankton and benthic primary production) mixing model provided evidence for an average minimum benthic primary production contribution of 65 % to consumer production. Primary producer δ15N values ranged from −1.6 to 8.0 ‰ with an average (2.1 ‰) consistent with a prevalence of N2 fixation. Consumer group δ15N means ranged from 6.6 ‰ (herbivore) to 12.1 ‰ (Galeocerdo cuvier), and differences between consumer group δ15N values suggest an average trophic enrichment factor of 1.8 ‰ Δ15N. Based on relative δ15N values, the larger G. cuvier may feed at a trophic position above other apex predators. The results provide baseline data for investigating the trophic ecology of healthy coral reef ecosystems.
French Frigate Shoals
Isotope ratio mass spectrometer
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Trophic enrichment factor