The structure of a food web in a tropical rain forest in Malaysia based on carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios

Fujio Hyodo, Takashi Matsumoto, Yoko Takematsu, Tamaki Kamoi, Daisuke Fukuda, Michiko Nakagawa, Takao Itioka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) have been used to study the structure of food webs. However, few studies have examined how a terrestrial food web can be depicted by this technique. We measured δ13C and δ15N in various consumers of four trophic groups (detritivores, herbivores, omnivores and predators), including vertebrates and invertebrates (14 orders, ≥24 families), as well as canopy and understorey leaves in a tropical rain forest in Malaysia. We found that δ13C and δ15N of the consumers differed significantly among the trophic groups. The predators had significantly higher δ13C than the herbivores, and were similar in δ13C to the detritivores, suggesting that most predators examined depend largely on below-ground food webs. δ15N was higher in predators than detritivores by about 3%. The comparison of δ13C in plant materials and herbivores suggests that most herbivores are dependent on C fixed in the canopy layers. The vertebrates had significantly higher δ15N and δ13C than the invertebrates of the same trophic group, likely reflecting differences in the physiological processes and/or feeding habits. This study indicates that stable isotope techniques can help better understanding of the terrestrial food webs in terms of both trophic level and the linkage of above- and below-ground systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Above-ground
  • Below-ground
  • Lambir National Park
  • Stable isotopes
  • Terrestrial food web
  • Trophic group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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