Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 173-187

First online:

Influence from Hydrological Modification on Energy and Nutrient Transference in a Deltaic Food Web

  • Margene E. GoeckerAffiliated withGovernment of South Australia, Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board Email author 
  • , John F. ValentineAffiliated withDauphin Island Sea LabDepartment of Marine Science, University of South Alabama
  • , Susan A. SklenarAffiliated withDauphin Island Sea Lab
  • , Glenn I. ChaplinAffiliated withAuburn University, Auburn Marine Extension and Research Center

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Alterations of hydrology are known to trigger changes in coastal ecosystems, such as the composition and abundances of local flora and fauna. It is less well known how these alterations lead to changes in nutrient and energy transfers in these systems. We used comparisons of stable isotope signatures (δ 13C, δ 15N, and δ 34S) in the tissues of conspecific plants and animals collected on each side of the Mobile Bay Causeway to determine the extent to which the causeway may have altered energy and nutrient exchange between the Mobile–Tensaw Delta and upper Mobile Bay. While the δ 13C signatures of most plants and animals varied irrespective of their location relative with causeway location, their δ 15N and δ 34S signatures were almost always more enriched south of the causeway, indicating significant alterations of trophic linkages within this estuarine food web. Dual isotope plots and mixing model analyses indicated that while terrestrial and floating plants were trophically important to consumers north of the causeway, submerged aquatic vegetation was more important to consumers south of the causeway. Although limited in spatial and temporal scale, our results preliminarily show that there are noteworthy differences in stable isotope signatures most likely due to the Mobile Bay Causeway altering energy and nutrient transference.


Carbon Estuary Nitrogen Sulfur Mixing models Mobile–Tensaw delta Stable isotopes