Food web structure of a restored macroalgal bed in the eastern Korean peninsula determined by C and N stable isotope analyses

Chang-Keun Kang; Eun Choy; Yongsoo Son; Jae-Young Lee; Jong Kim; Youngdae Kim; Kun-Seop Lee
April 2008
Marine Biology;Apr2008, Vol. 153 Issue 6, p1181
Academic Journal
Loss of macroalgae habitats has been widespread on rocky marine coastlines of the eastern Korean peninsula, and efforts for restoration and creation of macroalgal beds have increasingly been made to mitigate these habitat losses. Deploying artificial reefs of concrete pyramids with kelps attached has been commonly used and applied in this study. As a part of an effort to evaluate structural and functional recovery of created and restored habitat, the macroalgal community and food web structure were studied about a year after the establishment of the artificial macroalgal bed, making comparisons with nearby natural counterparts and barren ground communities. Dominant species, total abundance, and community structure of macroalgal assemblage at the restored macroalgal bed recovered to the neighboring natural bed levels during the study period. The main primary producers (phytoplankton and macroalgae) were isotopically well separated. δ13C and δ15N values of consumers were very similar between restored and natural beds but varied greatly among functional feeding groups. The range of consumer δ13C was as wide as that of primary producers, indicating the trophic importance of both producers. There was a stepwise trophic enrichment in δ15N with increasing trophic level. A comparison of isotope signatures between primary producers and consumers showed that, while suspension feeders are highly dependent on pelagic sources, invertebrates of other feeding guilds and fishes mainly use macroalgae-derived organic matter as their ultimate nutritional sources in both macroalgal beds, emphasizing the high equivalency of trophic structure between both beds. Isotopic signatures of a few mollusks and sea urchins showed that they use different dietary items in macroalgal-barren grounds compared with macroalgal beds, probably reflecting their feeding plasticity according to the low macroalgal biomass. However, isotopic signatures of most of the consumers at the barren ground were consistent with those at the macroalgal beds, supporting the important trophic role of drifting algae. Our results revealed the recoveries of the macroalgal community and trophic structure at the restored habitat. Further studies on colonization of early settlers and the following succession progress are needed to better understand the process and recovery rate in the developing benthic community.


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