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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Aquatic Trophic Ecology of Suisun Marsh, San Francisco Estuary, California, During Autumn in a Wet Year


Using stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) and mixing models, we investigated the trophic levels and carbon sources of invertebrates and fishes of a large tidal marsh in the San Francisco Estuary. Our goal was to better understand an estuarine food web comprised of native and alien species. We found the following: (1) the food web was based largely on carbon from phytoplankton and emergent-aquatic and terrestrial vegetation, but carbon from submerged aquatic vegetation and phytobenthos was also used; (2) alien species increased the complexity of the food web by altering carbon-flow pathways and by occupying trophic positions different from native species; and (3) most consumers were dietary generalists.

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