, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 173-181,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 03 Feb 2013

Possible ideas on carbon and nitrogen trophic fractionation of food chains: a new aspect of food-chain stable isotope analysis in Lake Biwa, Lake Baikal, and the Mongolian grasslands


Trophic fractionation of carbon and nitrogen isotopes (Δδ13C, Δδ15N) was examined using previously complied databases for food chains in Lake Biwa, Lake Baikal, and Mongolian grassland. The following two features were clarified: (1) For each ecosystem, the ratios of trophic fractionation of carbon and nitrogen isotopes (Δδ15N/Δδ13C) throughout food chain could be obtained as the slope of linear regression line on the δ15N–δ13C plot. (2) Further, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed the slopes on δ15N–δ13C were not significantly different among these various ecosystems and allowed us to have the regression by setting δ15N as the response variable: δ15N = 1.61 δ13C + [ecosystem specific constant] with standard errors of [±0.41] and [±9.7] for the slope and the intercept, respectively. It was suggested that the slope of the regression (or the ratio Δδ15N/Δδ13C) could be applicable to more complicated food webs in case nitrogen and carbon isotope ratios of primary producers can be assumed constant in space and time within the ecosystems. The results from simple linear regression analyses coincided well with the ANCOVA results for these ecosystems, although there was some discrepancy between the results of the two statistical analyses. Possible factors that govern the linear relationship between δ15N and δ13C along a food chain are discussed together with a new scope for the stable isotope food chain analyses.

Eitaro Wada is the recipient of the 7th Ecological Society of Japan Award.