Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 541–552 | Cite as

δ 13C and δ 15N variations in organic matter pools, Mytilus spp. and Macoma balthica along the European Atlantic coast

  • P. MagniEmail author
  • S. Rajagopal
  • S. Como
  • J. M. Jansen
  • G. van der Velde
  • H. Hummel
Original Paper


Stable carbon (δ 13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) isotope (SI) values of sedimentary organic matter (SOM), seston and two dominant bivalves, Mytilus spp. and Macoma balthica, were studied at 18 stations along the European coast in spring and autumn 2004. Three main regions, the Baltic Sea (BS), the North Sea and English Channel (NS), and the Bay of Biscay (BB), were tested for possible geographic (latitudinal) differences in the SI values. In spring, only BS showed lower δ 13C values of seston and Mytilus spp., and higher δ 15N values of SOM, than NS and BB. No significant differences between the 3 regions were found in autumn. Irrespective of season and regions, Mytilus spp. was more 13C-depleted than M. balthica. δ 13C values of M. balthica, but not those of Mytilus spp., were significantly correlated with SOM. These results are consistent with differences in feeding behavior of Mytilus spp. and M. balthica, as the two species are known as obligatory-suspension and facultative-deposit feeders, respectively. In contrast, no differences in the δ 15N values of Mytilus spp. and M. balthica were found at individual stations, indicating the same trophic level of the two bivalves within the food webs. At some stations, irrespective of geographic location, both bivalves showed δ 15N values up to 18–20 ‰. These were two trophic levels higher than those found at the other stations, indicating local and/or episodic eutrophic conditions, probably due to waste water discharge, and the effectiveness of both Mytilus spp. and M. balthica as bio-indicators of anthropogenic eutrophication. Overall, our results suggest that pathways of energy flow from OM pools to dominant bivalves is more related to local environmental conditions than to geographic regions across the European coastline. This has implications for food web studies along the Atlantic coast because most of the values are consistent over a large area and show no significant differences. Therefore, the present study can be used twofold for the determination of trophic baselines and for the correction of the trophic position of consumers higher up in the food web in the case of differences in waste water discharge.


Isotopic Composition Bivalve Trophic Level Anaerobic Ammonium Oxidation Sedimentary Organic Matter 
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.



We are grateful to all BIOCOMBE colleagues who assisted in the fieldwork and kindly thank J. Eygensteyn for stable isotope analysis. We also gratefully acknowledge three anonymous reviewers for their insightful and detailed comments which greatly contributed to improve early versions of the manuscript. Temperature and salinity data for Gironde were kindly provided by SOMLIT Service d’Observation en Milieu LITtoral. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Fifth Framework Programme under contract EVK3-2001-00146 for the project The Impact of BIOdiversity changes in COastal Marine Benthic Ecosystems (BIOCOMBE) and from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No. 266445 for the project Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (VECTORS).

Supplementary material

227_2012_2110_MOESM1_ESM.doc (128 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 127 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Magni
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. Rajagopal
    • 3
  • S. Como
    • 1
  • J. M. Jansen
    • 4
  • G. van der Velde
    • 3
    • 5
  • H. Hummel
    • 4
  1. 1.Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)IAMC Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino CostieroOristanoItaly
  2. 2.CNR, ISMAR Istituto di Scienze MarineVeniceItaly
  3. 3.Department of Animal Ecology and Ecophysiology, Institute for Water and Wetland ResearchRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)YersekeThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Naturalis Biodiversity CenterLeidenThe Netherlands

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