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Carbon transfer from cyanobacteria to pelagic and benthic consumers in a subtropical lake: Evidence from a 13C labelling experiment

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  • Jinlei Yu, CAS - Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology
  • ,
  • Hu He, CAS - Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology
  • ,
  • Zhengwen Liu, CAS - Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Jinan University, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
  • ,
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Feizhou Chen, State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, CAS - Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology
  • ,
  • Yongdong Zhang, South China Normal University

Eutrophication of lakes often results in dominance of cyanobacteria, which may potentially lead to serious blooms and toxic water. However, cyanobacterial detritus may act as an important carbon source for aquatic organisms. Using stable isotope carbon (13C) as a tracer, we assessed the carbon transfer from cyanobacteria to pelagic and benthic consumers in a 28-day outdoor mesocosm (~130 L) labelling experiment established in Lake Taihu, China, during a Microcystis aeruginosa bloom. The different organisms were labelled differently after addition of the labelled Microcystis detritus to the water. δ13C of particulate organic matter and of cladoceran zooplankton peaked earlier than for larger invertebrate consumers. Among the pelagic species, Daphnia similis had the highest Δδ13C, while the two snail species Radix swinhoei and Bellamya aeruginosa had lower but similar Δδ13C. The bivalves showed relatively modest changes in δ13C. The δ13C of Anodonta woodiana and Unio douglasiae showed a marginal though not significant increase, while a marked increase occurred for Arconaia lanceolate peaking on day 20, and Corbicula fluminea a slight increase peaking on day 9. Our results suggest that carbon from cyanobacteria can be incorporated by pelagic and some benthic consumers and eventually be transferred to higher trophic levels. Cyanobacterial carbon may, therefore, be considered an important carbon source supporting the entire food web during blooms, even if the cyanobacteria are not consumed directly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1536
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Bivalves, Carbon flow, Shallow lake, Stable isotope, Subtropical, Zooplankton

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