Marine Biology

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 257–262

Food-Web structure and the fractionation of Carbon isotopes in the bering sea

  • T. McConnaughey
  • C. P. McRoy

DOI: 10.1007/BF00952434

Cite this article as:
McConnaughey, T. & McRoy, C.P. Mar. Biol. (1979) 53: 257. doi:10.1007/BF00952434


13C undergoes modes biomagnification in the food web, apparently as a result of being respired at a slower specific rate than12C. The degree of13C enrichment at each “trophic level” is related to the fraction of assimilated carbon which is respired. Qualitative and semi-quantitative aspects of ecosystem carbon cycling can therefore be deduced from13C enrichments, provided that isotope enrichments arising from other causes are accounted for. Most important among these is lipid storage, which enriches animals in12C. This complication can be handled in various ways, here it was done by “normalizing”13C:12C ratios to a constant lipid content. Remaining variations in13C:12C ratio presumably result mainly from respiratory isotope fractionation. The Bering Sea ecosystem provided a test for this procedure. Our results illustrate certain aspects of food web structure and suggest varous functional aspects.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. McConnaughey
    • 1
  • C. P. McRoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Oceanography DepartmentUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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