Disruption of natural food webs is becoming a commonplace occurrence as a result of human activities. Considering this, there is a need to improve our ability to define food web structure as well as to detect and understand the implications of trophodynamic change. This requires the development, validation, and application of ecological tracers that can provide insights into the movement of energy, nutrients, and contaminants through food webs. In this study, we examine the utility of two groups of naturally occurring intrinsic tracers (stable nitrogen isotopes and fatty acids) to provide such information in a predatory seabird, the herring gull (Larus argentatus), Spatial and temporal patterns in gull trophic position (inferred from egg stable nitrogen isotope values) were related to gull diet composition (inferred from egg fatty acid concentrations). These two independent groups of ecological tracers provided corroborating evidence that gull trophic position was related to the degree to which aquatic foods, namely fish, were consumed. The use of these tracers in concert led to a better understanding of routes of energy flow and contaminant transfer in food webs and how these pathways may be affected by ecosystem change.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1021/es0520619
Journal Environmental Science and Technology
Hebert, C.E, Arts, M.T. (Michael T.), & Weseloh, D.V.C. (D. V. Chip). (2006). Ecological tracers can quantify food web structure and change. Environmental Science and Technology, 40(18), 5618–5623. doi:10.1021/es0520619