Hipólito, C., Neto, R.M.A., Costa, T.M.M., Dionísio, M.A., Prestes, A.C.L. Azevedo, J.M.N., Martins, G.M. & Neto, A.I. (2020) Frondose and turf-dominated marine habitats support distinct trophic pathways: evidence from 15N and 13C stable isotope analyses. Arquipelago, Life and Marine Sciences, 37, 37 - 44.
Marine vegetation plays an important structuring role, delivering key functions and services to coastal systems the extent of which depends on the foundation species and their architecture. In increasingly urbanised coastlines, turf-forming macroalgae are replacing frondose morphotypes. Trophic relationships within these systems can be studied through stable isotope analysis of the different food web compartments. In the present study, we investigated trophic pathways in two distinct macroalgal assemblages: one dominated by small brown frondose algae, and one dominated by low-lying turf-forming species. 15N and 13C isotopic signatures were determined for selected macroalgae and sedentary animals from distinct trophic levels, collected from two habitats on São Miguel Island (Azores, Portugal). In frondose habitats macroalgae appeared to make up the primary carbon source for the entire food web, whilst in turf-dominated habitats there was a decouple between macroalgae and higher trophic levels. Because canopy replacement by algal turf may affect the structure of the littoral food webs, coastal biodiversity conservation strategies should give priority to natural areas rich in canopy-forming algae.