Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 365–372 | Cite as

Flux by fin: fish-mediated carbon and nutrient flux in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico

  • James Nelson
  • Rachel Wilson
  • Felicia Coleman
  • Christopher Koenig
  • Doug DeVries
  • Chris Gardner
  • Jeff Chanton
Original Paper

Abstract

Seagrass meadows are among the most productive ecosystems in the marine environment. It has been speculated that much of this production is exported to adjacent ecosystems via the movements of organisms. Our study utilized stable isotopes to track seagrass-derived production into offshore food webs in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. We found that gag grouper (Myctereoperca microlepis) on reefs as far as 90 km from the seagrass beds incorporate a significant portion of seagrass-derived biomass. The muscle tissue of gag grouper, a major fisheries species, was composed on average of 18.5–25% seagrass habitat-derived biomass. The timing of this annual seagrass subsidy appears to be important in fueling gag grouper egg production. The δ34S values of gag grouper gonad tissues varied seasonally and were δ34S depleted during the spawning season indicating that gag utilize the seagrass-derived biomass to support reproduction. If such large scale trophic subsidies are typical of temperate seagrass systems, then loss of seagrass production or habitat would result in a direct loss of offshore fisheries productivity.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Nelson
    • 1
  • Rachel Wilson
    • 1
  • Felicia Coleman
    • 2
  • Christopher Koenig
    • 2
  • Doug DeVries
    • 3
  • Chris Gardner
    • 3
  • Jeff Chanton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.FSU Coastal and Marine LaboratorySt. TeresaUSA
  3. 3.National Marine Fisheries ServicePanama CityUSA

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