, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 87-101

Changes in Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca and 87Sr/86Sr ratios between trophic levels in two forest ecosystems in the northeastern U.S.A.

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Abstract

The variability and biologicalfractionation of Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca and 87Sr/86Srratios were studied in a soil–plant–invertebrate–bird food chain in two forested ecosystems withcontrasting calcium availability in the northeasternU.S.A. Chemical measurements were made of the soilexchange pool, leaves, caterpillars, snails, and boththe femurs and eggshells of breeding insectivorousmigratory songbirds. 87Sr/86Sr values weretransferred up the food chain from the soil exchangepool to leaves, caterpillars, snails and eggshellswithout modification. Adult birds were the oneexception; their 87Sr/86Sr values generallyreflected those of lower trophic levels at each site,but were lower and more variable, probably becausetheir strontium was derived in part from foods intropical winter habitats where lower87Sr/86Sr ratios are likely to predominate. Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios decreased at each successive trophiclevel, supporting previous suggestions that Sr/Ca andBa/Ca ratios can be used to identify the trophic levelat which an organism is primarily feeding. The changesin Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios we measured for vegetationand insects were comparable to similar measurementsmade previously (but based on single samples of eachorganism) in an alpine ecosystem. Changes in Sr/Ca andBa/Ca ratios between birds and their food have notpreviously been measured, but the values we obtainedwere similar to those for herbivorous and carnivorousmammals at similar trophic levels. Our results provideevidence that supports the use of Sr/Ca ratios in thedetermination of human paleodiets and suggests thatSr/Ca ratios may also provide a useful tool in studiesof modern food webs. Furthermore, our findings suggestthat 90Sr from nuclear fallout will notbioaccumulate in forests and that changes in Sr/Caratios between trophic levels will need to beconsidered in some cases when using87Sr/86Sr as a tracer of calciumbiogeochemistry.