Kelton W. McMahon William G. Ambrose Beverly J. Johnson Ming-Yi Sun Glenn R. Lopez Lisa M. Clough Michael L. Carroll
We assessed the digestibility and utilization of ice algae and phytoplankton by the shallow, subtidal benthos in Ny Ålesund (Kongsfjord) on Svalbard (79°N, 12°E) using chlorophyll a (chl a), essential..
We assessed the digestibility and utilization of ice algae and phytoplankton by the shallow, subtidal benthos in Ny Ålesund (Kongsfjord) on Svalbard (79°N, 12°E) using chlorophyll a (chl a), essential fatty acids (EFAs) and stable isotopes as tracers of food consumption and assimilation. Intact benthic communities in sediment cores and individuals of dominant benthic taxa were given ice algae, phytoplankton, 13C-enriched ice algae or a no food addition control for 19 to 32 d. Ice algae and phytoplankton had significantly different isotopic signatures and relative concentrations of fatty acids. In the food addition cores, sediment concentrations of chl a and the EFA C20:5(n-3) were elevated by 80 and 93%, respectively, compared to the control after 12 h, but decreased to background levels by 19 d, suggesting that both ice algae and phytoplankton were rapidly consumed. Whole core respiration rates in the ice algae treatments were 1.4 times greater than in the other treatments within 12 h of food addition. In the ice algae treatment, both suspension and deposit feeding taxa from 3 different phyla (Mollusca, Annelida and Sipuncula) exhibited significant enrichment in δ13C values compared to the control. Deposit feeders (15% uptake), however, exhibited significantly greater uptake of the 13C-enriched ice algae tracer than suspension feeders (3% uptake). Our study demonstrates that ice algae are readily consumed and assimilated by the Arctic benthos, and may be preferentially selected by some benthic species (i.e. deposit feeders) due to their elevated EFA content, thus serving as an important component of the Arctic benthic food web.