The hypothesis that phytoplankton is the sole carbon source for the OCS deep-reef community (>60 m) was tested. Trophic structure for NE Gulf of Mexico deep reefs was analyzed via carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. Carbon signatures for 114 entities (carbon sources, sediment, fishes, and invertebrates) supported surface phytoplankton as the primary fuel for the deep reef. However, a second carbon source, the macroalga Sargassum, with its epiphytic macroalgal associate, Cladophora liniformis, was also identified. Macroalgal carbon signatures were detected among 23 consumer entities. Most notably, macroalgae contributed 45 % of total carbon to the 13C isotopic spectrum of the particulate-feeding reef-crest gorgonian Nicella. The discontinuous spatial distribution of some sessile deep-reef invertebrates utilizing pelagic macroalgal carbon may be trophically tied to the contagious distribution of Sargassum biomass along major ocean surface features.
Additional Publication Details
Dual-Carbon sources fuel the OCS deep-reef Community, a stable isotope investigation
Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida