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    River flow can impact which sources of particulate organic matter (POM) fuel estuarine food webs. Here, we used stable carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) isotope analyses to compare how contributions of diff erent POM sources (terrestrial, estuarine, and marine) to the diets of zooplankton and juvenile fishes differed between low and high river flow conditions, as well as spatially across a tropical estuary, Hilo Bay, Hawaii, USA. Diets of zooplankton and juvenile fishes were affected by river flow conditions, but the magnitude and the change in the basal resources depended on the location of the station in the estuary relative to the ocean and the river mouths. Consumers from the station most isolated from the ocean and with groundwater and overland flow inputs, utilized a combination of estuarine and terrestrial POM during both low and high river flow conditions and exhibited less variability in their basal resources than stations with direct ocean exchange. Consumers from stations in the Bay most aff ected by ocean exchange and river inputs utilized a combination of estuarine, terrestrial, and marine POM during low flow conditions, but shifted to marine and terrestrial POM during high river flow conditions. Th is shift to using terrestrial POM during high river flow conditions was substantial and up to 40% higher than values measured in other estuaries. Factors suspected to be aff ecting which POM source(s) consumers use in Hilo Bay are gross primary production, biological availability of exported terrestrial OM, and estuarine bacteria biomass, all of which are affected by river flow. Overall, our results suggest that Hilo Bay's food web and possibly those from other tropical estuaries are vulnerable to changes in hydrology, which may be further enhanced by global climate change.

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    Atwood, Trisha B.; Wiegner, Tracy N.; MacKenzie, Richard A. 2012. Effects of hydrological forcing on the structure of a tropical estuarine food web. Oikos 121: 277–289.


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