Feeding strategies of deep-sea sub-Arctic macrofauna of the Faroe-Shetland Channel: Combining natural stable isotopes and enrichment techniques

Evina Gontikaki, Daniel Justin Mayor, Bhavani E Narayanaswamy, Ursula Felicitas Marianne Witte

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27 Citations (Scopus)


The response of a sub-arctic, deep-sea macrofaunal community to a simulated food sedimentation event was studied by means of a stable isotope "pulse-chase" experiment. A food pulse was simulated by adding 500 mg C m(-2) of C-13-labelled diatoms, Chaetoceros radicans, to sediment cores retrieved from 1080 m in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. Carbon uptake by specific macrofaunal groups was quantified after 3 and 6 days of incubation. The carbon uptake of the dominant taxon (Polychaeta) was quantified at the genus-, and where possible, species-level, representing a data resolution that is rare in deep-sea tracer studies. The macrofaunal community reacted rapidly to the diatom addition, with 47% and 70% of the animals illustrating C-13-enrichment after 3 and 6 days, respectively. Approximately 95% of C uptake was located in the upper 2 cm due to the particularly shallow vertical distribution of the macrofaunal community and the nonexistent tracer subduction by burrowing species. Polychaetes of the families Ampharetidae and Cirratulidae were among the most heavily labelled with above background enrichment reaching 1300 parts per thousand. Approximately 0.8 and 2.0 mg C m(-2) were processed by the macrofauna after 3 and 6 days, representing 0.2% and 0.4% of the added carbon, respectively. It was not possible to differentiate sub-surface deposit-feeding polychaetes from predator/scavenger- and omnivorous polychaetes using their natural delta N-15 signatures. However, the combination of natural abundance delta N-15 data and C-13-labelling experiments proved to be useful for elucidating trophic relations in deep-sea food webs. This study confirms that macrofauna play an active role in the short-term carbon cycling at bathyal depths even at sub-zero temperatures and highlights the need for detailed knowledge of the community structure in understanding carbon processing patterns and early diagenesis of organic matter in marine sediments. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-172
Number of pages13
JournalDeep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number2
Early online date5 Dec 2010
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Macrofauna
  • Food web
  • Pulse-chase experiment
  • Bathyal sediments
  • Benthic response
  • delta N-15
  • Faroe-Shetland Channel
  • European Continental-Margin
  • Organic-carbon flux
  • NE Atlantic
  • Benthic community
  • Short-term
  • Goban Spur
  • Food-web
  • Seasonal deposition
  • Particulate matter
  • Northeast Atlantic


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