Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 7, pp 1681–1695 | Cite as

Evidence for benthic primary production support of an apex predator–dominated coral reef food web

  • Anna K. Hilting
  • Carolyn A. Currin
  • Randall K. Kosaki
Original Paper


Five hundred and ninety-nine primary producers and consumers in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) (22°N–30°N, 160°W–180°W) were sampled for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope composition to elucidate trophic relationships in a relatively unimpacted, apex predator–dominated coral reef ecosystem. A one-isotope (δ13C), two-source (phytoplankton and benthic primary production) mixing model provided evidence for an average minimum benthic primary production contribution of 65 % to consumer production. Primary producer δ15N values ranged from −1.6 to 8.0 ‰ with an average (2.1 ‰) consistent with a prevalence of N2 fixation. Consumer group δ15N means ranged from 6.6 ‰ (herbivore) to 12.1 ‰ (Galeocerdo cuvier), and differences between consumer group δ15N values suggest an average trophic enrichment factor of 1.8 ‰ Δ15N. Based on relative δ15N values, the larger G. cuvier may feed at a trophic position above other apex predators. The results provide baseline data for investigating the trophic ecology of healthy coral reef ecosystems.


Phytoplankton Halimeda Coral Reef Ecosystem Apex Predator Benthic Primary Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Benthic macroalgae


Benthic microalgae




Fork length


French Frigate Shoals


Hydrochloric acid


Isotope ratio mass spectrometer




Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument




Standard deviation


Stable isotope


Trophic enrichment factor


Total length


Trophic position


Vertical migration



We thank R. Dollar, F. Parrish, and B. Popp for valuable discussions, E. Davenport for his technical expertise, E. Kehn for assistance with identification of macroalgal specimens, and H. Walsh, C. Meyer, Y. Papastamatiou, B. Bowen, and F. Parrish for sample collection. We thank the anonymous reviewers whose comments helped us significantly improve this paper. Funding was provided by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and the National Ocean Service. A report based on data presented in this manuscript was included in Friedlander et al. (2009).

Supplementary material

227_2013_2220_MOESM1_ESM.xls (205 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 205 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna K. Hilting
    • 1
  • Carolyn A. Currin
    • 1
  • Randall K. Kosaki
    • 2
  2. 2.NOAA NOS Papahānaumokuākea Marine National MonumentHonoluluUSA

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