Complexity of the food web structure of the Ascophyllum nodosum zone evidenced by a δ13C and δ15N study

Claire Gollety, Pascal Riera, Dominique Davoult

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Rocky shores dominated by canopy-forming macroalgae are characterized by complex communities making it difficult to assess whether the most abundant primary producers are at the base of the food web. This difficulty is exacerbated by the seasonal- and regional-scale variations of environmental and biotic factors that can affect the main trophic pathways. The food web structure of the Ascophyllum nodosum zone was studied during three seasons and at two sites separated by several 100s of kilometers by measuring the δ13C and δ15N of the major food sources and the dominant consumers of the zone. Despite the variability in isotopic compositions, both sites underwent similar significant seasonal variations. The main primary producers of the zone, A.nodosum, Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus serratus, were not at the base of the main trophic pathway but part of the diverse number of basal resources supporting the food web. The use of community-wide metric indices allowed further defining the food web structure of the A. nodosum zone as one characterized by trophic redundancy and numerous major trophic pathways. Indeed, grazers were dominated by generalists, filter-feeders utilized both planktonic and benthic organic matter, and predators displayed a high degree of omnivory. The range of values in δ15N showed a high spatiotemporal variability within and an important overlap between trophic groups. This prevented establishing distinctive trophic levels and further emphasized the complexity of the food web structure. The spatiotemporal stability of the relative isotopic composition of the dominant consumers within trophic groups and the low variability of the community-wide indices suggested a stability of the food web structure of the A.nodosum zone at a regional scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-312
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Issue number3
Early online date27 Apr 2010
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • food web
  • Temporal Variability
  • macroalgae
  • Rocky Intertidal Community
  • Ascophyllum nodosum
  • stable isotopes
  • Rocky Shores
  • Canopy-forming Macroalgae
  • Brittany Coast


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