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We combined 3 different approaches to determine the relative importance of microphytobenthos production as food for intertidal macrobenthic animals: (1) the natural abundance of stable-isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen, (2) an in situ deliberate tracer addition of C-13-bicarbonate, which was transferred through the benthic food chain after its incorporation by benthic algae, and (3) a dual labelling experiment in a flume, where pelagic and benthic algae were labelled with N-15 and C-13, respectively. The results of the 3 approaches confirmed the high importance of microphytobenthos as a food source for (surface) deposit feeders. Despite the clearly demonstrated resuspension of benthic algae at high current velocities, suspension feeders appeared to depend almost exclusively on pelagic algae (and possibly detrital carbon) as a food source. Based on the results of the experiments, we determined an approximate degree of dependence on microphytobenthos for different species of intertidal macrobenthos. The macrobenthic biomass at 5 study locations, when weighted by these coefficients, correlated very well with measured productivity of the microphytobenthos. [KEYWORDS: food web; microphytobenthos; deposit feeding; suspension feeding; westerscheldeflume Marennes-oleron bay; westerschelde estuary; benthic invertebrates; arenicola-marina; carbon; nitrogen; gut; microphytobenthos; sediments; matter]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-92
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - 2000

ID: 304262