Ancient and methane-derived carbon subsidizes contemporary food webs

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Issue Date
2016-11-08
Authors
DelVecchia, Amanda
Stanford, Jack
Xu, Xiaomei
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Keywords
Carbon Cycle , Ecosystem Ecology , Freshwater Ecology , Stable Isotope Analysis
Abstract
While most global productivity is driven by modern photosynthesis, river ecosystems are supplied by locally fixed and imported carbon that spans a range of ages. Alluvial aquifers of gravel-bedded river floodplains present a conundrum: despite no possibility for photosynthesis in groundwater and extreme paucity of labile organic carbon, they support diverse and abundant large-bodied consumers (stoneflies, Insecta: Plecoptera). Here we show that up to a majority of the biomass carbon composition of these top consumers in four floodplain aquifers of Montana and Washington is methane-derived. The methane carbon ranges in age from modern to up to >50,000 years old and is mostly derived from biogenic sources, although a thermogenic contribution could not be excluded. We document one of the most expansive ecosystems to contain site-wide macroinvertebrate biomass comprised of methane-derived carbon and thereby advance contemporary understanding of basal resources supporting riverine productivity.
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A.G.D. and J.A.S. designed the study and conducted data collection, data analysis and writing. X.X. contributed to sample analysis and writing.
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Environmental Science / Studies
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DelVecchia, A. G., Stanford, J.A., and Xu, X. (2016). Ancient and methane-derived carbon subsidizes contemporary food webs. Nature Communication. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13163.
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Published article
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Nature Communications
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