, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 185–192

Differences in nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes between planktonic and benthic microalgae

  • Hideyuki Doi
  • Eisuke Kikuchi
  • Shuichi Shikano
  • Shigeto Takagi


We compiled published data on the nitrogen and carbon stable isotope ratios of phytoplankton and benthic microalgae from lentic systems and explored the primary factors determining the isotope values among systems. Also, we investigated seasonal changes in nitrogen stable isotope ratios of phytoplankton and benthic microalgae in the strongly acidic lake, Lake Katanuma, which has only two dominant species, Pinnularia acidojaponica as a benthic diatom and Chlamydomonas acidophila, a planktonic green alga. From the published dataset, it may be concluded that δ13C of benthic diatoms were more enriched than those of phytoplankton at the same sites, although the nitrogen isotope of phytoplankton and benthic microalgae were similar. This differences in δ13C between benthic microalgae and phytoplankton could be explained by the boundary layer effect. On the other hand, nitrogen isotope values of both benthic microalgae and phytoplankton were primarily controlled by the same environmental factor, and boundary layer effects are not the primary factor determining the nitrogen isotope values of microalgae. Also, we showed temporal dynamics in nitrogen isotopes of benthic and planktonic microalgae species in Lake Katanuma, and the trends of nitrogen isotopes are similar between benthic and planktonic microalgae, as concluded from the published dataset.


Isotope fractionation Meta-analysis Lake Marine Diatom 


  1. Campbell L, Hecky RE, Dixon DG, Chapman LJ (2006) Food web structure and mercury transfer in two contrasting Ugandan highland crater lakes (East Africa). Afr J Ecol 1:1–10Google Scholar
  2. Couch CA (1989) Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of meiobenthos and their food resources. Est Coast Shelf Sci 28:433–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Doi H, Kikuchi E, Hino S, Itoh T, Takagi S, Shikano S (2003) Seasonal dynamics of carbon stable isotope ratios of particulate organic matter and benthic diatoms in strongly acidic Lake Katanuma. Aquat Microb Ecol 33:87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Doi H, Kikuchi E, Takagi S, Shikano S (2004a) A study of the nitrogen stable isotope dynamics of phytoplankton in a simple natural ecosystem. Aquat Microb Ecol 36:285–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Doi H, Kikuchi E, Mizota C, Satoh N, Shikano S, Yurlova N, Zuykova E, Yadrenkina E (2004b) Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope changes and hydro-geological processes in a saline lake chain. Hydrobiologia 529:225–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Doi H, Matsumasa M, Toya T, Satoh N, Mizota C, Maki Y, Kikuchi E (2005) Spatial shifts in food sources for macrozoobenthos in an estuarine ecosystem: carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 64:316–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Doi H, Chang KH, Ando T, Imai H, Ninomiya I, Nakano S (2009) Resource availability and ecosystem size predict food-chain lengths in pond ecosystems. Oikos 118:138–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. France RL (1995) Cabon-13 enrichment in benthic compared to planktonic algae: foodweb implications. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 124:307–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fry B (1991) Stable isotope diagrams of freshwater food webs. Ecology 72:2293–2297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hecky RE, Hesselein RH (1995) Contributions of benthic algae to lake food webs as revealed by stable isotope analysis. J N Am Benthol Soc 12:631–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Holmes RM, McClelland JW, Sigman DM, Fry B, Peterson BJ (1998) Measuring 15N–NH4 + in marine, estuarine and fresh waters: an adaptation of the ammonium diffusion method for samples with low ammonium concentrations. Mar Chem 60:235–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jones JI, Waldron S (2003) Combined stable isotope and gut contents analysis of food webs in plant-dominated, shallow lakes. Freshw Biol 48:1396–1407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kang CK, Kim JB, Lee KS, Kim JB, Lee PY, Hong JS (2003) Trophic importance of benthic microalgae to macrozoobenthos in coastal bay systems in Korea: dual stable C and N isotope analyses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 259:79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kasai A, Nakata A (2005) Utilization of terrestrial organic matter by the bivalve Corbicula japonica estimated from stable isotope analysis. Fish Sci 71:151–158Google Scholar
  15. Keough JR, Sierszen ME, Hagley CA (1996) Analysis of a Lake Superior coastal food web with stable isotope techniques. Limnol Oceanogr 41:136–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Larned ST, Nikora VI, Biggs BJF (2004) Mass-transfer-limited nitrogen and phosphorus uptake by stream periphyton: a conceptual model and experimental evidence. Limnol Oceanogr 49:1992–2000Google Scholar
  17. MacLeod NA, Barton DR (1998) Effects of light intensity, water velocity, and species composition on carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios in periphyton. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1919–1925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Melville AJ, Connolly RM (2003) Spatial analysis of stable isotope data to determine primary sources of nutrition for fish. Oecologia 136:499–507CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Moncreiff CA, Sullivan MJ (2001) Trophic importance of epiphytic algae in subtropical seagrass beds: evidence from multiple stable isotope analyses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 215:93–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pennock JR, Velinsky DJ, Ludlam JM, Sharp JH, Fogel ML (1996) Isotopic fractionation of ammonium and nitrate during uptake by Skeletonema costatum: implications of δ15N dynamics under bloom conditions. Limnol Oceanogr 37:451–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Post DM (2002) Using stable isotopes to estimate trophic position: models, methods, and assumptions. Ecology 83:703–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Riber HH, Wetzel RG (1987) Boundary-layer and internal diffusion effects on phosphorus fluxes in lake periphyton. Limnol Oceanogr 32:1181–1194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Riera P, Hubas C (2003) Trophic ecology of nematodes from various microhabitats of the Roscoff Aber Bay (France): importance of stranded macroalgae evidenced through δ13C and δ15N. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 260:151–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Scheiner D (1976) Determination of ammonia Kjeldhal nitrogen by indophenol method. Water Res 10:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shikano S, Kikuchi E, Takagi S, Doi H (2004) Volcanic heat flux and short-term holomixis during the summer stratification period in a crater lake. Limnol Oceanogr 49:2287–2292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sierszen ME, McDonald ME, Jensen DA (2003) Benthos as the basis for arctic lake food webs. Aquat Ecol 37:437–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Strickland JDH, Parsons TR (1972) A practical handbook of seawater analysis, 2nd edn. Bulletin of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  28. Takahashi T, Yoshioka T, Wada E, Sakamoto M (1990) Temporal variations in carbon isotope ratio of phytoplankton in a eutrophic lake. J Plankton Res 4:545–560Google Scholar
  29. Takai N, Mishima Y, Yorozu A, Hoshika A (2002) Carbon sources for demersal fish in the western Seto Inland Sea, Japan, examined by δ13C and δ15N analyses. Limnol Oceanogr 47:730–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vadeboncoeur Y, Lodge DM, Carpenter SR (2001) Whole-lake fertilization effects on distribution of primary production between benthic and pelagic habitats. Ecology 82:1065–1077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vander Zanden MJ, Vadeboncoeur Y (2002) Fishes as integrators of benthic and pelagic food webs in lakes. Ecology 83:2152–2161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Vinebrooke RD, Tuner MA, Kidd KA, Hann BJ, Schindler DW (2001) Truncated foodweb effects of omnivorous minnows in a recovering acidified lake. J N Am Benthol Soc 20:629–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vizzini S, Sarà G, Michener RH, Mazzola A (2002) The role and contribution of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile organic matter for secondary consumers as revealed by carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis. Acta Oecol 23:277–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Waser NA, Yin K, Yu DZ, Ada KT, Harrison PJ, Turpin DH, Calvert SE (1998) Nitrogen isotope fractionation during nitrate, ammonium and urea uptake by marine diatoms and coccolithophores under various conditions of N availability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 169:29–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wetzel RG (2001) Limnology lake and river ecosystems, 3rd edn. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  36. Whitney DE, Darley WM (1979) A method for the determination of chlorophyll a in samples containing degradation products. Limnol Oceanogr 24:183–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yokoyama H, Ishihi Y (2003) Feeding of the bivalve Theora lubricaon benthic microalgae: isotopic evidence. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 255:303–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yoshii K (1999) Stable isotope analyses of benthic organisms in Lake Baikal. Hydrobiologia 411:145–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yoshii K, Melnik NG, Timoshkin OA, Bondarenko NA, Anoshko PN, Yoshioka T, Wada E (1999) Stable isotope analyses of the pelagic food web in Lake Baikal. Limnol Oceanogr 44:502–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zohary T, Erez J, Gophen M, Berman-Frank I, Stiller M (1994) Seasonality of stable carbon isotopes within the pelagic food web of Lake Kinneret. Limnol Oceanogr 39:1030–1043CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Japanese Society of Limnology 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hideyuki Doi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eisuke Kikuchi
    • 3
  • Shuichi Shikano
    • 3
  • Shigeto Takagi
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of Life SciencesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine EnvironmentCarl-von-Ossietzky University OldenburgWilhelmshavenGermany
  3. 3.Center for Northeast Asian StudiesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

Personalised recommendations