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How to account for the lipid effect on carbon stable-isotope ratio (13C): sample treatment effects and model bias

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This study investigated the impact of lipid extraction, CaCO3 removal and of both treatments combined on fish tissue 13C, 15N and C:N ratio. Furthermore, the suitability of empirical 13C lipid normalization and correction models was examined. 15N was affected by lipid extraction (increase of up to 1ยท65‰) and by the combination of both treatments, while acidification alone showed no effect. The observed shift in 15N represents a significant bias in trophic level estimates, i.e. lipid-extracted samples are not suitable for 15N analysis. C:N and 13C were significantly affected by lipid extraction, proportional to initial tissue lipid content. For both variables, rates of change with lipid content (ΔC:N and Δ13C) were species specific. All tested lipid normalization and correction models produced biased estimates of fish tissue 13C, probably due to a non-representative database and incorrect assumptions and generalizations the models were based on. Improved models need a priori more extensive and detailed studies of the relationships between lipid content, C:N and 13C, as well as of the underlying biochemical processes.
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Keywords: C:N ratio; carbon; lipid extraction; mathematical lipid normalization; nitrogen; stable isotopes

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, P. O. Box 120161, 27515 Bremerhaven, Germany 2: Museum of Natural History Berlin, Humboldt University, Invalidenstrasse 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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