, Volume 100, Issue 1–3, pp 139–150 | Cite as

Seasonal variation in stable C and N isotope ratios of the Rhone River inputs to the Mediterranean Sea (2004–2005)

  • M. Harmelin-VivienEmail author
  • J. Dierking
  • D. Bănaru
  • M. F. Fontaine
  • D. Arlhac


The temporal variation in the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of particulate organic matter (POM) in the Rhone River was investigated on a monthly basis during a 2-year period (2004–2005). In spite of high month-to-month variation, interannually consistent seasonal trends appeared, with significantly lower δ13C (<−28.2‰) in spring than in the other seasons. In contrast, δ15N did not exhibit significant temporal variation. In spring and summer, high chlorophyll a and b concentrations were associated with low C/N values (<8) and a high percentage of organic carbon (%C) and organic nitrogen (%N), testifying to high development of autochthonous riverine phytoplankton (mainly diatoms and chlorophytes). In fall and winter, higher δ13C (>−27.2‰) and C/N (>8) values, and lower %C, %N, and chlorophylls concentrations indicated the predominance of allochthonous terrestrial detritus material in the river POM. The lower δ13C values recorded in spring–summer, when the phytoplankton biomass was high, were related to the lower carbon isotopic signatures of freshwater diatoms and chlorophytes compared to those of terrestrial plants. Overall, Rhone River POM was mainly composed of terrestrially derived material (90%), with autochthonous phytoplankton representing only 10% as a mean, in spite of a higher mean contribution of phytoplankton (27%) to river POM in summer.


Chlorophyll C/N Freshwater organic matter Gulf of Lions Stable isotopes 



This research was supported by the French National programmes PNEC-MEDOC and ECCO-PNBC. The second author was supported by a research stipend of the Okeanos foundation (Germany). We are grateful to Chantal Salen-Picard for assistance in sampling and to Charlie Scrimgeour (Mylnefield Lipid Analysis-SCRI) for stable isotope analyses. Thanks are expressed to the editor and two reviewers for their most valuable comments and improvement on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Harmelin-Vivien
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Dierking
    • 1
  • D. Bănaru
    • 1
  • M. F. Fontaine
    • 1
  • D. Arlhac
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre d’Océanologie de MarseilleUniversité de la MéditerranéeMarseilleFrance

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