, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 575-583

Plankton and dissolved inorganic carbon isotopic composition in a river-dominated estuary: Apalachicola Bay, Florida

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Abstract

To characterize the isotopic composition of organisms at the base of the food web and the controls on their variability, the concentration and δ13C isotopic composition of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and plankton δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S were measured. The measurements were made during periods of high and low river flow in Apalachicola Bay, Florida, United States, over 3 yr. DIC concentration and δ13C values were related to salinity, indicating that conservative mixing of riverine and marine waters was responsible for the overall distributions. The usefulness of DIC δ13C data for characterizing the trophic processes within the estuary was dependent upon the residence time of water within the season. Plankton δ13C values varied from −22‰ to −30‰ and were directly related to estuarine DIC δ13C, offset by a factor of roughly −20‰. This offset factor varied with salinity. Values of δ34S in estuarine plankton (station means ranged from 11.4‰ to 13.1‰) were depleted relative to marine plankton (17.7±0.4‰) possibly due to the admixture of34S-depleted sedimentary sulfide with estuarine samples. Values of δ34S in plankton were not related to δ13C values of plankton and were only weakly correlated to the salinity of the water from which the plankton were collected, indicating that marine sulfate was the primary source of planktonic sulfur. Values of δ15N in plankton varied from 5.5‰ to 10.7‰ and appeared related to dominance of the sample by phytoplankton or zooplankton. Estuarine plankton was15N enriched relative to offshore plankton and estuarine sediment.