Large variation in periphyton δ13C and δ15N values in the upper Great Lakes: Correlates and implications

Andrew C. Camilleri, Tedy Ozersky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) are frequently used to examine food web structure. Despite periphyton's importance to lake food webs, little is known about spatial variation of periphyton δ13C and δ15N values in the Great Lakes. We present periphyton δ13C and δ15N values from 28 sites the upper Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, the north shore of Lake Michigan, and Green Bay. We also examined variation in periphyton isotope values relative to several water quality parameters (TP, TN, TKN, NO3 , Kd) as well as periphyton C:N. There was a large range in both periphyton δ13C (range = 13.5‰) and δ15N (range = 10.2‰) among sites. Periphyton in more eutrophic sites had more depleted δ13C and more enriched δ15N compared to more oligotrophic sites. Our finding of high variability in periphyton isotope values in the Upper Great Lakes has implications for stable isotope-based reconstructions of food web structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)986-990
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Sandra Brovold, Julia Halbur, John Koets, Taylor Velander, Kirill Shchapov, and Alex Christie for their contributions to laboratory and field work. Constructive comments from Dr. Robert Hecky and two anonymous reviewers helped to improve this manuscript. Funding for this project was provided by the University of Minnesota Duluth .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • Food webs
  • Laurentian Great Lakes
  • Littoral
  • Periphyton
  • Spatial variation
  • Stable isotopes


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