Trophic linkages among primary producers and consumers in fringing mangroves of subtropical lagoons

David K. Kieckbusch, Marguerite S. Koch, Joseph E. Serafy, W. T. Anderson

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96 Scopus citations


Fringe mangroves associated with islands of the subtropical Atlantic/Caribbean region create extensive subtidal mangrove epibiont communities. While increasingly recognized as an important habitat, few studies have focused on the trophic structure of communities associated with mangrove prop-roots. We examined trophic linkages among primary producers (mangroves, seagrass, and algae) and consumers using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in fringe mangroves of the Bahamas and Biscayne Bay, Florida. The average δ13C value of primary consumers (-16.4) was similar to macroalgae (-16.7) and seagrass epiphytes (-14.6) and highly distinguishable from mangroves (-27.4). Higher secondary consumers had enriched δ13C values (-10.1) relative to primary consumers, and were similar to average seagrass δ13C values (-10.5). The ranges of δ15N signatures of vertebrate (6.3-12) and invertebrate (-0.4-10.7) consumers indicated a multi-trophic structure. Based on mixing equations, the majority of primary consumers diet was algal based, while secondary consumers depended on both algal and seagrass carbon. Mangroves do not appear to be the major source of carbon to consumers in fringe mangroves of subtropical lagoons. Rather, fringe island-associated mangroves constitute refugia for invertebrates and young reef fishes, and create substrate for a diversity of primary producers and consumers, thereby playing an important indirect role to the food web of these systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-285
Number of pages15
JournalBulletin of Marine Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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