This thesis investigates food web and community structure in Izembek Lagoon, Alaska, an ecologically
important sub-arctic seagrass system. Unprecedented environmental changes in high latitudes, such as
increased sea-surface temperatures and a shorter duration of shore-fast sea ice, may now favor seagrass
over phytoplankton production as compared to forty years ago. Any resulting shifts in food web and
community dynamics could have substantial consequences given the importance of seagrass habitat for
Alaskan fisheries, global migratory bird populations and benthic energy transformation. Recent (2008)
stable isotope (C and N) values and benthic community metrics were gathered and compared to results
from a similar study from the mid-1970’s to gauge temporal food web and community structure
differences. An increase in reliance on seagrass carbon was detected in organisms involved in detrital and
sediment processing. An increase in abundance of certain benthic organisms and a decrease in overall
community evenness were also seen. These findings suggest an escalation in delivery of seagrass carbon to
the food web, possibly induced by changing seagrass morphology or bed density at this location.
Thesis (M.S.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2013
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