Assessing diatom-mediated fatty acids in intertidal biofilm: a new conservation concern

  • Ollinik J
  • Chua C
  • Brunswick P
  • et al.
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Biofilm communities on intertidal mudflats are recognized as major producers of nutrients, especially fatty acids. The rising threats posed by both climatic and anthropogenic stressors increase the necessity of understanding and conserving these communities. Shorebirds provide a proxy for studying the complex ecology of biofilm communities because of their heavy reliance on fatty acids from diatomaceous biofilm for successful long-distance migration. Herein, we review biofilm feeding patterns by migratory shorebirds, experimental design considerations for sampling and studying the fatty acid content of biofilm, and the literature describing established and emerging analytical methodology. Techniques for fatty acid analysis include the commonly employed gas chromatography–flame ionization detection (GC/FID) and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC/MS) with derivatization. Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC/MS) and liquid chromatography–quadrupole time of flight (LC/QTOF) are newly emerging techniques that enable derivatization to be eliminated. In addition, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT/IR), a common instrument in chemistry laboratories, has applications in fatty acid research, specifically for screening. Using a combination of sampling and analytical methods is necessary for improved understanding of intertidal biofilm, both as a source of essential fatty acids in aquatic systems and a critical food for shorebirds.




Ollinik, J. E., Chua, C. C., Brunswick, P., Elner, R. W., Blajkevitch, O., Kim, M., … Shang, D. (2021). Assessing diatom-mediated fatty acids in intertidal biofilm: a new conservation concern. Environmental Systems Research, 10(1).

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