Fossil chironomid delta(13) C as a proxy for past methanogenic contribution to benthic food webs in lakes?

van Hardenbroek, Maarten and Heiri, Oliver and Grey, Jonathan and Bodelier, Paul L. E. and Verbruggen, Frederike and Lotter, André F.. (2010) Fossil chironomid delta(13) C as a proxy for past methanogenic contribution to benthic food webs in lakes? Journal of Paleolimnology, 43 (2). pp. 235-245.

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We used a series of experiments to determine whether stable carbon isotope analysis of modern and fossil larval head capsules of chironomids allowed identification of their dietary carbon source. Our main focus was to assess whether carbon from naturally C-13-depleted methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) can be traced in chironomid cuticles using stable carbon isotope analysis. We first showed that a minimum sample weight of similar to 20 mu g was required for our equipment to determine head capsule delta C-13 with a standard deviation of 0.5 parts per thousand. Such a small minimum sample weight allows taxon-specific delta C-13 analyses at a precision sufficient to differentiate whether head capsules consist mainly of carbon derived from MOB or from other food sources commonly encountered in lake ecosystems. We then tested the effect of different chemical pre-treatments that are commonly used for sediment processing on delta C-13 measurements on head capsules. Processing with 10% KOH (2 h), 10% HCl (2 h), or 40% HF (18 h) showed no detectable effect on delta C-13, whereas a combination of boiling, accelerated solvent extraction and heavy chemical oxidation resulted in a small (0.2 parts per thousand) but statistically significant decrease in delta C-13 values. Using culturing experiments with MOB grown on C-13-labelled methane, we demonstrated that methanogenic carbon is transferred not only into the larval tissue, but also into chironomid head capsules. Taxon-specific delta C-13 of fossil chironomid head capsules from different lake sediments was analyzed. delta C-13 of head capsules generally ranged from -28 to -25.8 parts per thousand, but in some instances we observed delta C-13 values as low as -36.9 to -31.5 parts per thousand, suggesting that carbon from MOB is traceable in fossil and subfossil chironomid remains. We demonstrate that stable carbon isotope analyses of fossil chironomid head capsules can give insights into dietary links and carbon cycling in benthic food webs in the past and that the method has the potential to reconstruct the importance of MOB in the palaeo-diet of chironomid larvae and, indirectly, to infer past changes in methane flux at the sediment water interface in lakes.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Geoökologie (Heiri)
UniBasel Contributors:Heiri, Oliver
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:30 Nov 2020 14:25
Deposited On:30 Nov 2020 14:25

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