Estuarine food webs are highly variable and complex, making identification of their trophic pathways difficult. Energy for the food web of the San Francisco Estuary is thought to be based largely on in situ phytoplankton production, but little attention has been paid to littoral habitats, where other energy sources may be important. We analyzed the stomach contents of over 960 juvenile fishes and the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of these fishes and their potential food resources in pelagic and littoral habitats from the tidal freshwater area of the estuary. The mixing model IsoSource was used to examine energy sources important to consumers. Our results show evidence of two predominant food web pathways. Pelagic fishes and some littoral fishes showed strong dependence on a zooplankton–phytoplankton trophic pathway. However, the majority of fishes in littoral habitats had diets and carbon isotope ratios consistent with energy arising from submerged aquatic vegetation and epiphytic macroalgae. IsoSource revealed that the overall majority of nutrition of littoral fishes originated from consumption of grazer amphipods. Examining both stable isotopes and stomach contents allowed us to identify a food web with contributions to resident fishes that had been previously underestimated in the estuary. This study provides insight to how estuarine food webs have changed over the last few decades and highlights why the functions of habitats must be understood for effective restoration planning.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Dietary segregation of pelagic and littoral fish assemblages in a highly modified tidal freshwater estuary|
|Series title||Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science|
|Publisher||American Fisheries Society|
|Contributing office(s)||Toxic Substances Hydrology Program|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|