Polar Biology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 238–249 | Cite as

Food web structure in the high Arctic Canada Basin: evidence from δ13C and δ15N analysis

  • K Iken
  • BA Bluhm
  • R Gradinger
Original Paper


The food-web structure of the Arctic deep Canada Basin was investigated in summer 2002 using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope tracers. Overall food-web length of the range of organisms sampled occupied four trophic levels, based on 3.8‰ trophic level enrichment (δ15N range: 5.3–17.7‰). It was, thus, 0.5–1 trophic levels longer than food webs in both Arctic shelf and temperate deep-sea systems. The food sources, pelagic particulate organic matter (POM) (δ13C=−25.8‰, δ15N=5.3‰) and ice POM (δ13C=−26.9‰, δ15N=4.1‰), were not significantly different. Organisms of all habitats, ice-associated, pelagic and benthic, covered a large range of δ15N values. In general, ice-associated crustaceans (δ15N range 4.6–12.4‰, mean 6.9‰) and pelagic species (δ15N range 5.9–16.5, mean 11.5‰) were depleted relative to benthic invertebrates (δ15N range 4.6–17.7‰, mean 13.2‰). The predominantly herbivorous and predatory sympagic and pelagic species constitute a shorter food chain that is based on fresh material produced in the water column. Many benthic invertebrates were deposit feeders, relying on largely refractory material. However, sufficient fresh phytodetritus appeared to arrive at the seafloor to support some benthic suspension and surface deposit feeders on a low trophic level (e.g., crinoids, cumaceans). The enriched signatures of benthic deposit feeders and predators may be a consequence of low primary production in the high Arctic and the subsequent high degree of reworking of organic material.


Trophic Level Particulate Organic Matter Deposit Feeder Canada Basin Pelagic Primary Production 
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 acknowledge Fiona McLaughlin and Kathy Crane for leading the expedition. The captain and crew of the Louis St. Laurent provided important logistical assistance. Thanks go to Casey Debenham and Ian McDonald for unfaltering assistance in sieving box core samples for stable isotope samples. The Institute of Ocean Sciences group provided water samples, and Russ Hopcroft and Kevin Raskoff kindly provided the pelagic samples and their taxonomic identification. We would like to acknowledge the help of Nora Foster and Max Hoberg, both University of Alaska Fairbanks, for the identification of mollusc and polychaete samples, respectively. Tim Howe and Norma Haubenstock ran the stable isotope samples at the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility. Thanks go to Tom Weingartner for discussions on Arctic physical oceanography. Three anonymous reviewers provided excellent comments, which have greatly improved the quality of this paper. This project was funded through NOAA Ocean Exploration Office, grant no. NA16RP2627.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine Science, School of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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