Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 137–146 | Cite as

Terrestrial and marine trophic pathways support young-of-year growth in a nearshore Arctic fish

  • Vanessa R. von Biela
  • Christian E. Zimmerman
  • Brian R. Cohn
  • Jeffrey M. Welker
Original Paper


River discharge supplies nearshore communities with a terrestrial carbon source that is often reflected in invertebrate and fish consumers. Recent studies in the Beaufort Sea have documented widespread terrestrial carbon use among invertebrates, but only limited use among nearshore fish consumers. Here, we examine the carbon source and diet of rapidly growing young-of-year Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis) using stable isotope values (δ13C and δ15N) from muscle and diet analysis (stomach contents) during a critical and previously unsampled life stage. Stable isotope values (δ15N and δ13C) may differentiate between terrestrial and marine sources and integrate over longer time frames (weeks). Diet analysis provides species-specific information, but only from recent foraging (days). Average δ13C for all individuals was −25.7 ‰, with the smallest individuals possessing significantly depleted δ13C values indicative of a stronger reliance of terrestrial carbon sources as compared to larger individuals. Average δ15N for all individuals was 10.4 ‰, with little variation among individuals. As fish length increased, the proportion of offshore Calanus prey and neritic Mysis prey increased. Rapid young-of-year growth in Arctic cisco appears to use terrestrial carbon sources obtained by consuming a mixture of neritic and offshore zooplankton. Shifts in the magnitude or phenology of river discharge and the delivery of terrestrial carbon may alter the ecology of nearshore fish consumers.


Arctic Beaufort Sea Carbon isotope Diet analysis Nearshore Terrestrial carbon 



Sample collections were made available to our laboratory by R. Fechhelm at LGL Limited with the consent of B. Streever and BP under Fish Resource Permit CF-09-109 issued by the State of Alaska, Department of Fish and Game. Diet analyses were conducted by T. C. Stark at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and S. E. Burril at the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center. K. H. Dunton provided constructive comments on this manuscript. Funding was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management with the assistance of K. Wedemeyer. Support by NSF for the Environmental and Natural Resources Institute stable isotope facility was provided by MRI grant 0953271 awarded to JMW. Any use of trade names or products is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement of the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanessa R. von Biela
    • 1
  • Christian E. Zimmerman
    • 1
  • Brian R. Cohn
    • 2
  • Jeffrey M. Welker
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science CenterAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.ENRI Stable Isotope Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, Environmental and Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA

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