Stable isotope analysis provides novel insights for measuring lake ecosystem recovery following acidification Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Unstable and simplified freshwater food webs impair the resilience of Canadian fisheries facing environmental stressors. This study utilizes stable isotope analyses to assess trophic recovery to explore food web resiliency in lakes historically impacted by metal mining in Sudbury, Ontario. Carbon (δ 13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) stable isotope ratios were quantified in yellow perch (Perca flavescens), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and baseline organisms to develop quantitative population metrics and describe dietary niche partitioning. The most severely damaged lake with a barren watershed had the lowest trophic positioning, smallest body size and niche area, and greatest niche overlap among fish species. Semi-barren and forested watershed lakes were more similar to reference lakes in isotopic metrics; however elevated niche overlap and reduced trophic positioning suggests recovery in these lakes is ongoing. We found that including stable isotope analyses in lake recovery studies provided critical insights not captured by traditional biomonitoring approaches.


  • Dawson, Jade
  • Guzzo, Matthew M
  • Gunn, John M
  • Emilson, Eric
  • McCann, Kevin S
  • Edwards, Brie