Rivermouth ecosystems are areas where tributary waters mix with lentic near-shore waters and provide habitat for many Laurentian Great Lakes fish and wildlife species. Rivermouths are the interface between terrestrial activities that influence rivers and the ecologically important nearshore. Stable isotopes of nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) in consumers were measured from a range of rivermouths systems to address two questions: 1) What is the effect of rivermouth ecosystems and land cover on the isotopic composition of N available to rivermouth consumers? 2) Are rivermouth consumers composed of lake-like or river-like C? For question 1, data suggest that strong relationships between watershed agriculture and consumer N are weakened or eliminated at the rivermouth, in favor of stronger relationships between consumer N and depositional areas that may favor denitrification. For question 2, despite apparently large riverine inputs, consumers only occasionally appear river-like. More often consumers seem to incorporate large amounts of C from either the nearshore or primary production within the rivermouth itself. Rivermouths appear to be active C and N processing environments, thus necessitating their explicit incorporation into models estimating nearshore loading and possibly contributing to their importance to Great Lakes biota.
Additional publication details
An exploratory investigation of the landscape-lake interface: Land cover controls over consumer N and C isotopic composition in Lake Michigan rivermouths