Determination of fish trophic levels in an estuarine system

Abstract : The concept of trophic level is particularly relevant in order to improve knowledge of the structure and the functioning of an ecosystem. A precise estimation of fish trophic levels based on nitrogen isotopic signatures in environments as complex and fluctuant as estuaries requires a good description of the pelagic and benthic trophic chains and a knowledge of organic matter sources at the bottom. In this study these points are considered in the case of the Gironde estuary (south west France, Europe). To obtain a good picture of the food web, fish stomach content analyses and a bibliographic synthesis of the prey feeding ecology were carried out. Fish trophic levels were calculated from these results and d15N data. The feeding link investigation enabled us to identify qualitatively and quantitatively the different preys consumed by each fish group studied, to distinguish the prey feeding on benthos from those feeding on pelagos and to characterize the different nutritive pools at the base of the system. Among the species studied, only Liza ramada and the flatfish (Platichthys flesus and Solea solea) depend mainly on benthic trophic compartments. All the other fish groups depend on several trophic (benthic and/or pelagic) sources. These results enabled us to correct the calculation of fish trophic levels which are coherent with their feeding ecology data obtained from the nitrogen isotopic integrative period. The present work shows that trophic positions are linked with the feeding ecology of fish species and vary according to individual size. Ecological data also allow the correction of the isotopic data by eliminating absurd results and showing the complementarity of the two methods. This work is the first to consider source variability in the fish food web. This is an indispensable step for trophic studies in a dynamic environment. The investigation of matter fluxes and recycling processes at the food web base would provide a useful improvement in future estuarine food web research.
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  • IRSTEA : PUB00027618

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S. Pasquaud, M. Pillet, V. David, B. Sautour, Pierre Elie. Determination of fish trophic levels in an estuarine system. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Elsevier, 2010, p. 237 - p. 246. ⟨hal-00473506⟩

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