Methane carbon supports aquatic food webs to the fish level

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Large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) are produced by anaerobic mineralization of organic matter in lakes. In spite of extensive freshwater CH4 emissions, most of the CH4 is typically oxidized by methane oxidizing bacteria (MOB) before it can reach the lake surface and be emitted to the atmosphere. In turn, it has been shown that the CH4-derived biomass of MOB can provide the energy and carbon for zooplankton and macroinvertebrates. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of specific fatty acids synthesized by MOB in fish tissues having low carbon stable isotope ratios. Fish species, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates and the water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes were collected from a shallow lake in Brazil and analyzed for fatty acids (FA) and carbon stable isotope ratios (δ13C). The fatty acids 16:1ω8c, 16:1ω8t, 16:1ω6c, 16:1ω5t, 18:1ω8c and 18:1ω8t were used as signature for MOB. The δ13C ratios varied from -27.7‰ to -42.0‰ and the contribution of MOB FA ranged from 0.05% to 0.84% of total FA. Organisms with higher total content of MOB FAs presented lower δ13C values (i.e. they were more depleted in 13C), while organisms with lower content of MOB signature FAs showed higher δ13C values. An UPGMA cluster analysis was carried out to distinguish grouping of organisms in relation to their MOB FA contents. This combination of stable isotope and fatty acid tracers provides new evidence that assimilation of methane-derived carbon can be an important carbon source for the whole aquatic food web, up to the fish level. © 2012 Sanseverino et al.




Sanseverino, A. M., Bastviken, D., Sundh, I., Pickova, J., & Enrich-Prast, A. (2012). Methane carbon supports aquatic food webs to the fish level. PLoS ONE, 7(8).

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