Training: Ecological applications of biomarkers in aquatic food web studies

The growing demand for a sustainable use of aquatic resources has stimulated research interest in untangling the functional relationships between aquatic organisms, including interactions at the basis of food webs. Knowledge of these (trophic) interactions is a prerequisite to understand and to protect the carrying capacity of aquatic ecosystems. Stable isotope analysis (SIA) has proven to be a useful tool in reconstructing diets, characterizing trophic relationships, elucidating patterns of resource allocation, and constructing food webs. Consequently, the number of studies using SIA in trophic ecology has increased exponentially over the past decade. Several subdisciplines have developed, including isotope mixing models, incorporation dynamics models, lipid-extraction and correction methods, isotopic routing models, and compound-specific isotopic analysis. This course aims to provide advanced knowledge on the use of stable isotopes as tracers in ecological research. More specifically, next to theory on the up-to-date techniques, analysing and implementing biomarker and tracer data in food web modelling will be included in the training. A short introduction to the use of the statistical software package SIAR and SIBER in R is foreseen as well.