Send to

Choose Destination
Oecologia. 2011 Feb;165(2):521-31. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1843-6. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Efficiency of transfer of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids versus organic carbon from producers to consumers in a eutrophic reservoir.

Author information

Institute of Biophysics of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Krasnoyarsk, Russia.


One of the central paradigms of ecology is that only about 10% of organic carbon production of one trophic level is incorporated into new biomass of organisms of the next trophic level. Many of energy-yielding compounds of carbon are designated as 'essential', because they cannot be synthesized de novo by consumers and must be obtained with food, while they play important structural and regulatory functions. The question arises: are the essential compounds transferred through trophic chains with the same efficiency as bulk carbon? To answer this question, we measured gross primary production of phytoplankton and secondary production of zooplankton and content of organic carbon and essential polyunsaturated fatty acids of ω-3 family with 18-22 carbon atoms (PUFA) in the biomass of phytoplankton and zooplankton in a small eutrophic reservoir during two summers. Transfer efficiency between the two trophic levels, phytoplankton (producers) and zooplankton (consumers), was calculated as ratio of the primary production versus the secondary (zooplankton) production for both carbon and PUFA. We found that the essential PUFA were transferred from the producers to the primary consumers with about twice higher efficiency than bulk carbon. In contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids with 16 carbon atoms, which are synthesized exclusively by phytoplankton, but are not essential for animals, had significantly lower transfer efficiency than both bulk carbon, and essential PUFA. Thus, the trophic pyramid concept, which implicitly implies that all the energy-yielding compounds of carbon are transferred from one trophic level to the next with the same efficiency of about on average 10%, should be specified for different carbon compounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center