• Estimates of primary production sources to Arctic bivalves using amino acid stable carbon isotope fingerprinting

      Rowe, Audrey G.; Wooller, Matthew; Iken, Katrin; O'Brien, Diane (2018-12)
      Benthic invertebrates are a crucial trophic link in Arctic marine food webs. However, estimates of the contribution of primary production sources sustaining these organisms are not well characterized. Potential sources could include sinking particulate organic matter from sea ice algae and phytoplankton, terrestrial organic matter eroded from the coastal environment, macroalgal material, or microbial organic matter. Proportions of these sources could also be significantly altered in the future as a result of environmental change. We measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in muscle tissue from two common bivalve genera (Macoma spp. and Astarte spp.) collected in Hanna Shoal in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, considered an Arctic benthic hotspot. We used stable isotope mixing models in R (simmr) to compare the stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprints of the bivalves to a suite of amino acid source endmembers, including marine phytoplankton, brown and red macroalgae, bacteria, and terrestrial plants, to estimate the proportional contributions of primary production sources to the bivalve species from Hanna Shoal. The models revealed relatively high contributions of essential amino acids from phytoplankton and bacteria averaged across both species in the region as a whole. We also examined whether stable carbon isotope fingerprints could be measured from essential amino acids preserved in bivalve shells, which could then allow proportional contributions of food sources to be estimated from ancient bivalve shells, allowing source estimates to be extended back in time. To investigate this, we measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in a suite of paired modern bivalve shells and muscle from Macoma calcarea from the Chukchi Sea. These analyses revealed a correspondence between the fingerprints and mixing model estimates of the dominant primary production source of essential amino acids derived from analyses of these two tissue types. Our findings indicate that stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprinting of marine bivalves can be used to examine dominant organic matter sources in the Arctic marine benthos in recent years as well as in deeper time.